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Park Estate School – Water safety and the KCs

Following discussions with the children and staff at our school, Park Estate, we found that while the children spent a great deal of time around water, their confidence levels were very poor. Many children had limited knowledge of safety procedures, and limited skills to cope in water.

Students swimming in lifejackets.

After surveying the children and then assessing them in the water, we found that the senior students had more confidence than ability. The junior students were more accurately able to calculate their confidence and swimming ability, with the help of their teachers.

Staff found that this inquiry had strong links with the key competencies:

  • Managing self – Students acquired skills, knowledge, attitudes, and developed respect for a wide range of aquatic environments; learnt their limits and how to look after themselves in water. Students could plan for safety and understand risk. They also explored when to lead, when to follow, and when to act independently.
  • Relating to others – Students understood the need for buddies in aquatic situations and the importance of reassurance and cooperation in safety situations. Discussions were held around the safety of others and understanding peer pressure.
  • Thinking – This inquiry lent itself to considering consequences and predictive thinking. Students needed to think about risk analysis and their actions in and around the water.

Project background

WaterSafe Auckland in association with Team Solutions has been working to raise the profile of aquatic education within schools and their communities. The aim of the year long Integrated Aquatic Programme Schools initiative was to:

  • develop holistic aquatic programmes based on student learning needs within their own school environment
  • identify, plan, and overcome barriers to the successful implementation of the planned programme
  • share programmes and findings with other schools.

The results showed positive shifts in teacher and student knowledge, improved attitudes to aquatic education for students, teachers, and their communities. Every school developed or modified their own programmes across all levels and taught both practical and classroom sessions in preparation for the summer holidays.

How we organised our programme

Image of swimming group instruction.

The school decided to design their own aquatics programme.

  1. Students were introduced to the joys and dangers of water through in class lessons. This enabled us to develop an awareness of water safety prior to entering the water.
  2. Students and their parents were surveyed to determine groupings and prior experience in, on, and around water.
  3. Students were assessed in the water to determine correct groupings.
  4. Each teacher had three groups at similar levels – water confidence, floating skills, survival skills.
Barriers Enablers
  • Funding
  • Parents
  • Swimming gear
  • Cultural beliefs
  • Changing facilities
  • Prior experience
  • Body awareness
  • Professional support through Team Solutions and WaterSafe Auckland
  • Principal drive
  • Positive lead teacher
  • Staff buy-in
  • Planning
  • BOT support

Student reflections

"On Monday we went to the wave pools by bus to learn how to be safe in water. The good thing was that I know how to do free way. The bad thing was that I was nearly going to drown. I felt cold when I went into the water. I learnt how to do the starfish."

"On Tuesday we went to the wave pools to learn how to be safe in water. The good thing was that we went in the lazy river. The bad thing was that my ears got blocked. I learnt how to float on my back. I need to improve on putting my head under the water."

"On Wednesday we went to the wave pools to learn how to swim. The good thing was that I went in the lazy river. The bad thing was that my eyes got sore. I learnt how to float like a starfish."

"On Thursday we went to the pools to learn how to be safe in water. The good thing was that I know how to float on my back. The bad thing was that my nose got blocked. The good thing was I could put my head in the water. I felt proud because I could put my head under water."

"On Friday we went to the wave pools to learn how to be safe in water. The good thing was that we got free time. The bad thing was that I was scared to go in the deep water. I need to improve on jumping in the deep water."

By Navdeep, 8 years

Teacher reflections

Initial fears

"I hadn't taught swimming before so it was all new learning for me. I was not confident in my teaching abilities of swimming."

"Being able to teach it properly."

"I do not know enough to teach water safety effectively or have any resources."

"Managing the children at a public swimming pool."

What increased your confidence for classroom teaching?

"The resources we were supplied with were excellent, and our plan was simple and easy to follow."

"The practical experience we had – staff meetings. The resources that were provided – I was able to read up and then teach."

"Professional development in staff meetings. Support from lead teacher. Unit plan for each day at the pools."

"Teacher education by background reading and resources provided."

"Having learned (hands on) what to do prior to working with the children."

What increased your confidence for teaching the practical?

"The teaching resources I had and the attitude of the students toward the water – they were very eager to learn."

"Pool staff meeting and reading of resources."

"Professional development in staff meetings. Support from lead teacher. Unit plan for each day at the pools."

"Teacher professional development given prior to taking children to the pools."

Feelings after teaching the practical

"Confident in my ability to teach water safety effectively."

"Much more confident in my ability."

"A great achievement on behalf of myself and the children."

What made you change the way you feel between the beginning and now?

"The practical work in the pool reinforced what we were teaching in class so that the children gained a deeper understanding of water safety."

"Having been through it at the pool, and knowing it was less stressful than I first imagined."

"Professional development and support. More pool time."

"Experience of doing it."

"Children's confidence in the water."

Further support needed

"Maintenance – teaching swimming again within the next two years."

"Maybe some examples at the lower end of skill development."

"More professional development and teaching of students in the pool."

"Updates of resources as time goes on."

"I guess the next step."


"Seeing children gain more confidence and experience in the water as we progressed through the week."

"What students and I have learnt through seeing their reflections and in the pool confidence."

"The children are more aware of water hazards in the home and recreation. They know what to do around the home to prevent a disaster and to be careful where they swim."

Most memorable moment / quote by students or teachers

"Rashpal was terrified to jump off the cliff so he climbed onto the ladder. When he got his way onto the bottom step, he changed his mind and said, 'Can I go up to the higher step?'"

"One student wrote a story and in it she mentioned she felt proud that she was in the water and not scared."

"I have learnt to be more confident in the water and it is fun."

"It is more manageable than I thought it would be."

"I like being in your group, it's fun."

"Our children learnt heaps and hopefully it will prepare them for summer."

"Can I do it again?"

"It was fun. They are more confident in water and can swim better now than when they started. They will check against the height board at the pools to see where they can swim if they are confident swimmers."

Where to from here?

  • Maintain the enthusiasm for the programme in staff and students
  • Parent evening to share learning
  • Logistics – booking / funding
  • Lead teachers for 2009
curriculum design and review
effective pedagogy
key competencies

Updated on: 14 Apr 2009