Aussie swimming icon Laurie Lawrence has urged grandparents to get into the pool with their grandkids and teach them to swim, after life savers raised the alert about declining swimming ability of school-aged children.
Surf Lifesaving Queensland’s Coast Safe Report 2017, released today, said that one of the biggest challenges facing lifesavers was the rising number of children aged five to 17 who had low or poor swimming ability.
SLQ’s report said that its lifesavers rescued 2,561 beachgoers in 2016-17, of which 729 were school-aged children, adding that the organisation planned to work with the government to implement mandatory school swimming lessons.
The nationwide Royal Life Savings Society agreed with the findings, saying in its own 2017 report, released this week, that Aussie kids lacked the swimming and water safety skills needed to stay safe.
Meanwhile, swimming instructor Gary Taylor told The Courier Mail that parents were increasingly relying on schools to organise swimming lessons rather than teaching their children themselves. Other reasons cited for the drop-off in parents’ emphasis on swimming skills was the expense of private swimming lessons.
“What we are seeing now is a generation of children where most would not have the swimming ability to save themselves,” Taylor said.
The data worried Lawrence, the former Olympic swimming coach who launched the Kids Alive program in 1988 to combat child drowning by teaching Aussie kids pool safety and how to swim.
Speaking to Triple M’s Brisbane morning drive team today, Lawrence called on grandparents to jump in where parents were not acting on swimming skills, and help their grandchildren learn to swim or to pay for swimming lessons.
“You can’t learn to swim if you don’t get into the water so I’m saying, grandparents out there, if you’re retired and you’ve got kids under the age of five, do yourself a favour, have some fun with them, take them to the pool, play with them, give them an opportunity to explore,” Lawrence said. “Or pay for some swimming lessons for them.”
He rejected arguments that swimming lessons were too expensive, saying that his own swimming schools charged just $18 for a 30-minute lesson.
“If it’s too expensive, cut out the smokes or the beer for a week,” the down-to-earth coach said.
Learn2Swim week runs from September 23 to October 2, with the 500 swimming schools across Australia offering up to five free lessons for children during the week. You can find more details on local lessons here.