What was your first experience with swimming races

swimming lessons : Why many children don't learn to swim

At least 504 people were killed in swimming accidents in Germany in 2018, as the German Life Saving Society (DLRG) reported at the beginning of the year. Among the 71 fatalities in the age group up to 20 years, 26 children were of pre-school and primary school age. The number of drowned children and adolescents rose in 2018 by a total of 38 percent compared to the previous year.

These numbers are frightening, especially as it can be assumed that the number of drowned people will continue to increase in the next few years. According to a survey by the DLRG in 2017, around 60 percent of ten-year-olds are no longer safe swimmers.

Why is that? And what can be done to ensure the water security of our children and young people?

One reason is certainly that more and more swimming pools have been closed in recent years and will continue to do so. No swimming lessons without a swimming pool - no question about it. But there are other reasons as well.

Often there are less than 30 minutes left for swimming lessons

At some elementary schools, swimming lessons take place in the neighboring village or in the neighboring school, which has a swimming pool. A double hour during the school mornings is estimated for this. So there is a time frame of 90 minutes available. The children are taken to the swimming pool and back again by bus, which usually takes more than a quarter of an hour. It takes many more minutes for the children to change their clothes and shower and for the formalities to be dealt with. Especially in winter, when the children's hair has to be dried with the few hairdryers, a lot of time has to be planned in order to be back at school in time. There are often less than 30 minutes left for swimming lessons with around 28 children in a teaching pool, which is usually 20 by 8 meters. So the children have to take turns swimming so that each of them has enough space.

These double swimming lessons per week are often shared by one year group - regardless of the fact that swimming lessons usually only take place in one year group. This means that in a common four-course school, every student has about eight weeks of swimming lessons in their school life, i.e. eight double lessons, one of which is canceled every now and then due to a school project or an excursion or because the teacher is sick. As a rule, there are only a few teachers at a school who are authorized to give swimming lessons.

Parents often replace missing supervisors in swimming lessons

Perhaps it is because the swimming class is not divided, as is often the case in the needlework subject, but a single teacher has to teach 28 children. A second supervisor is required, who is also guaranteed with the presence of a bathing supervisor, if necessary. If the swimming pools have no lifeguards, the schools are in need ... and again have to rely on parents to accompany the class. Thank God there is always a parent who agrees to do this voluntary job. The teacher is still responsible for the 28 children and the swimming lessons.

In the past, almost all of the children could swim when they went to school. There were one or two non-swimmers who could be kept under control while the others were given instructions. Nowadays - I would say - the relationship is more like this: around three to eight children can swim well and do specific technical exercises, ten to 14 children somehow, sometimes very insecure, stay afloat and need individual support, and six up to twelve children are absolute non-swimmers.

Many children are not familiar with water

The main problem with non-swimmers is that they are often unfamiliar with the water. They are shy and afraid to entrust themselves to this element or even to submerge part of their heads under water. Each of these children would need someone to be with them. Who pulls it lovingly through the water, splashes with him, slowly takes his head under water up to the tip of his nose with him, breathes out air with him in the water and is happy with him when even one little thing works better.

That takes time ... and above all, it takes a person. Not only for getting used to the water, but also for the first swimming movements until the child feels safe in the water. The hand under the stomach helps with the first swimming movements, which slowly loosens and is there again immediately if the child becomes unsure. The situationally instructive words help, how the hand and foot movements have to be changed in order to swim better.

The teacher is not allowed in the water with the children

But a single teacher cannot do that. If only because of the duty of supervision: You can only go into the water when all other children are out of the water. Swimming aids are a good support for pure splashing around and also for learning techniques and for exercise. However, if you use them to give the child security when learning to swim, this is often deceptive, because the child does not gain security from himself. Children then often do not dare to take off their swimming aids in order to swim alone. Or someone would be needed again to support him in this important step.

Lessons in a larger group only make sense if the child has the basic requirements, that is, if they feel safe, if they no longer need a person for support and if they accept and implement explanations on their own initiative. In any case, 28 children are too many in a group; groups with eight children are barely manageable for a teacher.

I am certainly concerned that the problem will worsen. If there are fewer and fewer children who can swim, there will inevitably soon be fewer and fewer parents who can give their children the previous experience they need to learn to swim well and safely.