Local instructors see scope to plug gaps in swimming skills
Federal Labour's pledge to support a $40.9 million national water safety program could help patch some of the holes in water safety skills according to local swimming instructors.
There "could be some merit" in a national and more more consistent approach to teaching swimming, Julia Stebbing from Brunswick Swim School said.
Even in the Northern Rivers with its many rivers and beaches and other swimming options there are plenty of children who need more work on their skills, she said.
In some cases children have learned to do some swimming strokes but can't do more basics things like float, she said.
She has also experienced older children turning up for lessons with skills applicable to a much younger age group, making it quite hard to place them in a group, she said.
Money was one issue for parents.
"And sometimes children get the basics but then want to do another sport, so parents take them out of swimming lessons," she said.
"These kids might be OK in a pool but could be in trouble in the surf.
"People treat swimming lessons as an after school activity, not a life skill," she said.
There were plenty of good school-based swimming programs already in the area, but extra funding could lift the ratio of teachers to students and boost lesson time as well, Ben Howard-Bath from Bangalow Swim School said.
Better swimming skills meant children could stayed out of trouble for longer when they got tired or cold, he said.
Another issues was parents who overestimated how well their children could actually swim, he said.
By age 5 to 6 children should be bale to make their way to the edge of a poll, and by the time they leave primary they should be confident to swim 25 metres, Ms Stebbing said.
Labor's said its investment will support the States and Territories to work with government, catholic and independent schools, local swim schools and lifesaving clubs to ensure every student has access to a swimming and water safety program.