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Calls for open water swimming lessons for children amid ‘disgraceful’ drowning toll in New Zealand

by ZwemZa on February 1st, 2020

The number of drowning victims has been called a national disgrace by Water Safety New Zealand as already this January, 10 people have died in our oceans, lakes and rivers.

New research released by Otago University shows kids can learn to swim more effectively in open water.

“Open water, it’s often cold, you might have variable depths, it might be slippery. There’s currents, there’s waves, there’s all kinds of things that aren’t present in swimming pools,” says Dean of School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Science, Professor Chris Button.

Swimming pools are the common place that most children get their first experience of swimming in water which Button says creates a false sense of security.

“Unfortunately we get lulled into a sense of security that it is sufficient to learn to swim in a pool. But in fact most of the drownings around New Zealand and around the world tend to occur in open water, not swimming pools.”

Some children took part in the University of Otago study, learning swimming skills on beaches and in rivers as opposed to a swimming pool.

Water Safety New Zealand says while pools provide a solid start, our natural water sources need to be used in order to save lives.

According to Professor Button, the water retention rates of those children that were tested as part of the study, improved significantly.

“Where feasible and where possible, we can educate children in a real environment which exposes them with the familiarity of those conditions,” says Water Safety New Zealand chief executive, Jonty Mills.

Professor Button says schools need to look at how their school camps can be used alongside swimming pool education.

Water Safety New Zealand is now pushing for more formal open-water programmes to be introduced in to the schooling curriculum.

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