Teaching swimming: Issues beyond drowning!

Year: 2001

Author: Whipp, Peter

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Recognising that swimming is a skill that must be acquired to avoid the very real dangers of drowning, it is of concern that many pupils are apparently not making swimming progress during the secondary school years. This paper presents the results of a questionnaire investigating the current status of swimming and water safety programmes in seven Western Australian secondary schools. With reference to the Year 8 level, the Head of Department described the sort of activities undertaken, perceptions of the importance and relative success of the programme, issues of concern, and pedagogies employed to deal with different ability levels.

Definitions of swimming abilities, as determined by the teachers, are particularly diverse for the categories, ‘non-swimmer’, ‘weak swimmer’ and ‘moderate swimmer’. On average, non-swimmers constitute 9.5% of a Year 8 Physical Education class. The remainder of the active class participants were categorised as weak swimmers (21.0%), moderate swimmers (52%) and strong swimmers (15.7%). Physical education teachers value swimming programmes highly and see ‘coping with varied swimming ability levels’ as a major concern, second to the issue of ‘staff/student ratios’. Schools devote the majority of their swimming class time to ‘stroke technique analysis and correction’

In some secondary schools weak swimmers are coached by non-participants, while the staff are generally engaged teaching to the majority/average of the class. Streaming according to ability occurs in some schools, while in others, weak swimmers are maintained in the lane nearest the edge. At times weak swimmers are required to sit-out for a while.