PARENTS in Orange should be concerned that despite the construction of an indoor aquatic centre, which is home to two swimming clubs and a Bush Nippers club, the number of children who can swim seems to be falling.
Anecdotal evidence, backed by participation levels in school carnivals, suggests that many primary school aged children are not confident swimmers.
Of course the extent of the problem is hard to gauge unless schools conduct some sort of assessment of their children’s water safety and swimming abilities. One primary school in Orange does this and has seen a general improvement in swimming ability, but not all schools have the resources or the trained staff to follow suit.
The Department of Education and Communities offers a water safety and swimming program to local schools.
The question that all government and non-government schools should be asking is just how well all their students can swim and what more needs to be done to improve what is quite literally a life-saving skill.
In most schools, whether they be government or non-government, the logistics of organising swimming lessons and the costs involved can present real obstacles for the schools and for parents.
As the Royal Life Saving Society’s annual report on drownings shows, the number of deaths is high and many occur in inland waterways.
A starting point for measuring the extent of the problem in Orange would be an annual assessment of all primary school children’s abilities.
Whether this could take place during the lead-up to annual school carnivals or as part of end-of-year activities is a question for principals and the department, but a realistic assessment of every child would be as vital as just about any other information schools collect.
The results of such an assessment would indicate whether it is necessary increase the focus on learning to swim and whether access to the aquatic centre, including the cost to parents, is a factor.