Recently Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) introduced their new Water Skills for Life (WSFL) programme that is being introduced to schools who receive support from WSNZ and Swimming New Zealand (SNZ).
Sport Otago have oversight for 8,500 children in the wider Otago area. Our goal is that every student will have the opportunity to develop water safety knowledge and survival skills. We coordinate the WSFL programme for Year 5, 6 and 7 students in 66 schools in the wider Otago region, and Year 0-8 students in 26 schools in Central Otago.
A new approach for teaching young people water safety, survival skills and swimming:
In 2017, Water Safety New Zealand stated that "We are working to bring down our high drowning toll, one of the highest in the OECD. There were 81 fatal preventable drownings last year - 81 needless deaths leaving families and communities devastated." WSNZ has looked to the best international research to find the most effective way to tackle the issue. The research revealed one of the most powerful tools is teaching children water survival skills. WSNZ then developed the Water Skills for Life initiative. WSFL provides 5-13 year olds with the necessary techniques and knowledge to stay safe in, on, and around the water. The focus is less on traditional swimming techniques and more on real life scenarios and practical skills. The skills learned complement swimming, and the initiative has the full endorsement of Swimming New Zealand. WSFL will also lead to greater and safer participation in water based sports and recreation.
What changes might schools expect to see?
The aquatic programmes delivered to schools will now include more survival skills including floating, sculling, and treading water. Children will be introduced to deep water, life jacket, and scenario based learning – learning for a purpose. Children who can complete all the WSFL competencies will be provided with opportunities to further develop their aquatic and swimming skills. More detailed information can be found on the Water Safety New Zealand website.
How can each school assist with the teaching?
The feedback from WSFL is that it’s easier to teach, and dynamic and fun to learn for the children. WSNZ encourages active participation by teachers in lessons, and SNZ has workshops to support parents and teachers. The Water Safety and Awareness Skill Set includes competencies that can be reinforced in class time. These are primarily around recognising an- emergency, the rules, hazards, and risks for closed and open water environments, safe decision making around water, and hypothermia awareness.