HEAD ABOVE: Rimika Maguire learns to swim at the Lockyer Valley Sports and Aquatic centre.
HEAD ABOVE: Rimika Maguire learns to swim at the Lockyer Valley Sports and Aquatic centre. Meg Bolton

School swimming lessons play a vital role

LOCKYER Valley primary schools are being urged to prioritise swimming lessons in a bid to save the lives of young Queenslanders.

Students at Gatton, Helidon, Grantham, Tent Hill Lower, Ma Ma Creek, Ropeley and Mount Whitestone State Schools currently attend lessons twice a year.

But Gatton swim teacher Trish Reinhardt said two terms of swimming should be bare minimum.

"If it rains and swimming is cancelled students might only get four lessons a term,” Mrs Reinhardt said.

"The school system used to be very strong and effective ... but it's not as good as it used to be.

"There should be a requirement that you have to finish primary school being able to swim 50 metres.”

The benchmark would align students in the Sunshine State with those in Victoria who obtain a Water Safety Certificate when exiting primary school.

"Queensland has most water but has the least effective swimming program in schools,” Mrs Reinhardt said.

While government funding is available for swimming lessons at state schools, being able to swim is not a requirement of the curriculum.

Mrs Reinhardt, along with others from across the country, have called for change.

"In Australia (children leaving primary school with limited swimming skills) should not be acceptable,” said the CEO, Australian Swim Schools Association Ross Gage.

"Learning to swim is a rite of passage for every Australian in childhood.

"From a health and drowning perspective it (swimming) really should be a core in health and physical education curriculum in school.”

A Department of Education spokesperson said they were committed to improving water safety in schools across Queensland.

"From 2019-2020, $3.68 million will be invested annually to increase and expand swimming and water safety programs representing a funding boost of $2.18 million per year,” a spokesperson said.

At present almost 750 children attend private swimming lessons at the pool in Gatton, but Mrs Reinhardt said numbers dropped off significantly once children reached school age.

Mrs Reinhardt said while school swimming lessons should not be the only way a child learns to swim they were vital.

"For some kids school swimming lessons are the only time they're in the water,” she said.

"Swimming lessons save lives.”

Plainland mum Elissa Maguire has enrolled her daughters in swimming lessons since they were toddlers.

She said she couldn't put a price on the value of ensuring her daughters were safe around water.

"They know where safety is, I think that's pretty important in any pool or dam or creek you swim in, the side is safety,” Ms Maguire said.

In 2017/2018 60 people drowned in Queensland with rivers, creeks and streams being the leading locations.


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