The ASA Learn to Swim Companion

For parents, carers, and anyone considering taking the plunge

Questions parents ask about swimming pool policies

Taking your kids swimming outside lessons helps them learn. But sometimes parents encounter swimming pool policies that stop them from doing so.

We understand this can be frustrating. All pools are different. Your local centre’s policy towards swimming could be different to one a mile further down the road.

One pool may have water that is slightly deeper in the shallow end to the other, for example. Or there may be blind spots where the lifeguards cannot see all the bathers all the time.

We have created this frequently asked questions (FAQs) section about swimming pool policies to help you. If they don’t answer your question head to the contacts page and ask us directly.

Swimming Pool Policies FAQs

  • I was turned away from my local pool for turning up with too many children. Why is this?

It is hard to say. It depends on the policy of the pool you were visiting. The number of children you had with you, the age of your children, their swimming ability, can all contribute.

You should ask the pool operator why this has happened.

  • Why has my pool just changed its policy so that I can no longer take my two children swimming?

It is not clear why your pool may suddenly have changed its policy.

They may have had an accident or an incident which alerted them to a problem. Or they may have just recruited new management staff who have taken a different approach to pool safety than previous managers.

The change will probably be to ensure your children are safer than before.

  • The centre down the road has a different swimming pool policy. How can this be right?

The pool down the road will be different from your local pool in some way.

It may be that at one pool the water is slightly deeper in the shallow end, or that there are sudden changes in depth or steeper slopes to the deep end.

It may be there are blind spots where the lifeguards cannot see all the bathers all the time, or they may have a history of more accidents to children swimming in their pools.

Each pool has to look at its own circumstances and undertake an assessment of the risks on site and the action necessary to control these risks.

Admission policies help to reduce the risk of children getting into difficulty.

  • How many children can I take to the pool?

That will depend upon the pool. Each pool has its own risk assessment that it will do.

The Institute of Sport & Recreation Management (ISRM) is the leading national professional body for sport and recreational management in this country.

It states the pool must do a risk assessment but provided the children are in a non-swimmer area of reasonably shallow water and can swim, or are wearing approved armbands, it is likely that one adult can safely look after two children – where one or more is under the age of three – or three children four to seven-years-old.

  • What has age got to do with it?

The influence of age is likely to be on swimming ability, height in relation to pool water depth, maturity, behaviour, and the understanding of risk.

Younger children are less likely to recognise danger and to behave sensibly. They are more difficult to control.

They are also less likely to be able to swim and are more likely to be smaller, making it easier for them to get out of their depth.

If this happens, and they are not wearing armbands or accompanied by parents or guardians, they could drown.

  • I am a lone parent of three small children. How can I take them swimming in line with pool policy?

You need to talk to reception at the pool about times when they offer special family sessions targeted at parents in similar situations.

You would find it very difficult to manage all three children on your own if they couldn’t swim and weren’t wearing armbands.

If they can swim well, or are wearing armbands, you could probably manage to safely supervise all three children. You would need to be in a designated non-swimmer area and your oldest able to stand up in the water.

  • How do I know how many children of what age I can take swimming if pools have different policies?

You need to ensure that before you take children to swim in a pool you have never visited you find out their admission policy on the times you can take your children to swim.

They may have different policies for different times.

  • Why is this decision being made by someone who doesn’t know my children or their swimming ability?

Pool operators have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their customers as far as is reasonably practicable.

They need to carry out a risk assessment and put in place appropriate control measures.

They cannot pass that responsibility on to anyone else or be excused that responsibility by the parents.

Even if you didn’t sue in the event of an accident, they could be prosecuted in the criminal courts.

  • My children swim really well. Surely they can be treated differently from those who can’t swim?

Yes they can! The ASA encourages pool operators to take account of swimming ability and to maximise access to pools.

Clearly there are practical limitations to assessing ability on a case-by-case basis, but there are schemes for certifying good ability.

  • Why must it be armbands and not buoyancy garments?

British and European Standards agencies test armbands and buoyancy garments to assess what is safe and what is not.

The ASA recommends you use a form of buoyancy aid validated in this way and make sure that any aid you use for your children complies with EN BS 13138.

This can be either a buoyancy garment or an armband. However, experience seems to indicate that armbands are usually cheaper and more readily available than buoyancy garments.