Should we be sending our children to swimming lessons during the COVID-19 pandemic?
It's a hot topic amongst parents in Britain right now, with some mums and dads continuing their child's lessons whilst adhering to new health guidelines and others feeling more anxious and cancelling lessons altogether.
If you're undecided, the advice and information below may help. Ali Beckman, Technical Director and Head Teacher at Puddle Ducks swim school for children, shares her top tips for getting your little swimmers safely back into the pool post-lockdown, and what to look out for in your child’s swimming lessons.
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There are new guidelines for children's swimming lessons
'Instructors should not be handling the children'
Ali says: "Swimming lessons across the country will see some changes put in place to ensure the safety of the children, their families and the instructors. Some larger lessons may be reduced in size to allow for social distancing in the pool, but many will continue to run with the same numbers as long as the swim school adheres to the guidance from their governing body.
"There may be some changes to lesson plans as instructors should not be handling children in the pool - there are some exceptions to this rule in Wales, however, it is important to check with country guidelines and ensure that teachers are adhering to them.
"Teachers need to risk assess for COVID-19 before anything else - teaching from the poolside reduces the risk of contact with customers and adjustments to the lesson plans can still ensure there is progression, as well as lots of fun!
"Whilst teachers at Puddle Ducks lessons will continue to sing, parents and children should not. Music and rhythm are integral to our lessons; however, we have to ensure that the classes are safe and reducing the amount of people singing in the class will certainly help.
"You should also make sure your child knows how to properly adjust their goggles or swim caps, as, depending on which country you live in, instructors may not be able to assist with this due to social distancing rules."
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'Parents will still be allowed in the pool to help their children'
Ali explains: "For many younger, less able swimmers, parents or guardians who are from the same household as the child or in their support bubble will be in the water to assist during lessons. Instructors are not allowed to physically interact with swimmers, so those who are less able in the pool will need a parent or guardian to assist them.
"However, this could change from country to country, so make sure to check your local pool’s guidelines before getting back in the water.”
Parents are allowed in the pool to help young children
'Spectators should not be by the side of the pool'
Ali says: "The Swimming Teacher’s Association guidelines advise to not allow spectators at lessons in order to ensure social distancing guidelines can be adhered to in venues where there is often little space.
"This may differ from pool to pool, however, and you should contact your local pool directly to find out more about this. Children who require assistance due to a disability will still be able to have a spectator to help, as necessary."
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'Equipment should be cleaned, sanitised and disinfected'
Ali comments: "The STA advises that equipment use should be reduced, with customers allowed to bring their own equipment if they wish to. Make sure your pool has an equipment rota in place for borrowed equipment.
"Borrowed equipment should not be shared between children during lessons. This equipment should be sanitised throughout the lesson, which is possible by fully submerging into the water as chlorine levels are enough to kill the virus after 15-20 seconds.
"At the end of the day, a full disinfection of all equipment should take place, being cleaned, sanitised, disinfected, rinsed, and dried, ready for the next day."
A swimming lessons at Puddle Ducks
'Remind your child that if they are nervous, they are not alone'
Ali advises: "Children have been out of the pool for 6 months, which is a long time for anyone, especially for a child. Most providers will ease children back into swimming lessons slowly in order to rebuild their confidence and ability in the water.
"Parents may be allowed into the pool with younger, less able swimmers, which will help with confidence levels. Remain positive around your child and they will feel encouraged that there is nothing to worry about: they won’t be the only ones feeling nervous!"
'You should still be able to use the pool’s facilities'
"The guidance on the use of changing rooms depends on the pool and the facilities they have available. Swim schools, including us at Puddle Ducks, will encourage people to turn up to lessons ‘swim-ready’, to allow for a smoother transition to the pool and less time spent in communal places.
"To find out more information on this you should contact your local pool directly."
'Government guidance of face coverings should be adhered to'
"Adults and children should wear face coverings in pool venues as much as is reasonably possible, but not in the pool itself.
"This is in line with government guidance which strongly encourages individuals to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces where social distancing may be difficult, or where you come into contact with people you do not normally meet."
'Government guidelines on COVID-19 symptoms still apply in the pool'
Ali states: "You should continue to follow the government guidance on COVID-19 symptoms, and not bring your child to lessons if they or any member of your household are symptomatic.
"If you have any symptoms of the virus, you must follow the NHS guidelines, self-isolate and book a test."
Puddle Ducks provides innovative swimming classes for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers aged 0-4, as well as Swim Academy from 4 to 10 years. For more information on classes in your local area, visit puddleducks.com