Learn to Swim

A guide to the Learn to Swim Programme

How to know when your child is a competent swimmer

Water competency is often misinterpreted by parents and guardians as their child being able to jump into a swimming pool and being able to put their face in the water. The reality is very different.

Learning to jump into a swimming pool is an important safety skill that children often achieve in the early stages of their learning to swim journey, as it is one of the outcomes in our Pre-School Framework.

This skill mimics the motion of falling into water and so it is important for helping swimmers get used to not panicking and also getting themselves to the side safely.

However, there are many other water safety and survival skills that a child needs to learn before they are safe in water, such as floating and treading water.

So, when can you be sure that a child is water competent, rather than just showing confidence in the water?

Swim England’s minimum water competency standards give parents and guardians a clear set of skills that children should achieve before a child stops swimming lessons. The four competencies are:

  • Perform a star float for 30 seconds
  • Tread water for at least 30 seconds
  • Have experience of swimming in clothing
  • Swim at least 100 metres with ease and without stopping

Research in September 2021 highlighted that more than 3 million seven-11-year-old children were not achieving this standard, with just 4% of the age group being classed as ‘water competent’.

Swim England strongly recommend, where possible, parents and carers keep children in swimming lessons until they have completed Learn to Swim Stages 1 to 7, as a minimum.

By this point children will have achieved all four of the minimum standards for water competency and will be much safer were they to get into trouble than a child who hasn’t demonstrated these skills.

Swimming water competency standards explained:

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