Learn to Swim

A guide to the Learn to Swim Programme

Rainbow Distance Awards

All Awards

The Swim England Rainbow Distance Awards are designed to complement the 10 different stages of the Swim England Learn to Swim Programme.

They are a range of bright, cheerful badges and certificates to help keep your child motivated while working through the individual Learn to Swim stages.

The Rainbow Distance Awards (including Puffin Award) are aimed at swimmers of five years and older and are designed to demonstrate the pupils’ ability to swim from A to B without pause and without stress.

They are a great way to give swimmers the incentive to develop their swimming abilities and stamina by gradually increasing the distance they can swim.

If your child is working through Learn to Swim Stages 1-7 they can also work up to the Rainbow Distance 200 metres Award. Learners on Learn to Swim Stages 8-10 can secure up to the Rainbow Distance 1,500 metres Award. Swimmers who have completed all stages can strive for 5,000m!

Pupils may touch the side and end of the pool (but not the bottom) in order to turn.

On a note of caution, please be aware that your child securing Rainbow Distance Awards is not an indication that he or she is safe in deep water. Swim England has designed specific Awards for safety and survival.

There are 12 further Awards celebrating the development of the four recognised swimming strokes.

Distance Awards Outcomes

There are 19 Distance Awards (including the Puffin Award) available to reward a specific distance covered by the swimmers, from 5 metres with floatation equipment (Puffin) right through to 5,000 metres.

These Awards are designed to test the child’s ability to swim the following distances:

5m, 10m, 15m, 20m, 25m, 50m, 100m, 200m, 400m, 600m, 800m, 1,000m, 1,500m, 1 mile, 2,000m, 3,000m, 4,000m and 5,000m.

Puffin Award

This award is aimed at beginners and is designed to test the pupils’ ability to travel five metres using any floatation equipment.

Stroke Awards Outcomes

There are 12 further Stroke Awards for children to achieve – 5 metres, 10 metres and 25 metres in each of the four strokes.

It is vital that swimmers develop correct technique as early as possible and the Rainbow Distance Awards for front crawl, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly can be used to reward and encourage the development of good standards across each of the four recognised swimming strokes:

Front Crawl

Body position: horizontal, streamlined, close to surface, in alignment.
Legs: in line with body, close to surface kick as necessary to ensure above.
Arms: entry under control, thumb and finger entry, between head and shoulder line, pull/push within body width, continuous action, close to body plane.
Breathing: to side, head in line, regular, confident, exhale in water.
Timing: rhythmic action, regular and consistent breathing pattern.
Turns: unhesitating, fast somersault, push to full stretch, turn onto front after push off, pull with one arm into stroke.
Finish: fast, one hand touch, aggressive, hold breath on approach.


Body position: horizontal, close to surface, in alignment, head steady.
Legs: alternating kick, just breaking surface, holding alignment.
Arms: shoulder line entry with straight arm, pull/push as close to body as possible, release past hip, vertical recovery, no pause in action, regular.
Timing: continuity of arm action, rhythmic.
Turns: use of flags where possible. Confident, unhesitating roll onto front, check orientation. Fast somersault, push and stretch off wall, kick then pull with one arm into stroke.
Finish: confident fast finish, on back, at full stretch, one hand touch.


Body position: stretched, streamlined position, head kept steady. Hips just below surface, toes pointed.
Legs: heels draw up toward seat, feet pointing out for kick. Kick accelerating round to straighten in one sweep.
Arms: from stretch, hands sweep out (never past shoulders). Hands and elbows sweep in at speed towards hips. Hands push forward to streamlined full stretch.
Breathing: to front, shoulders square. Normally every stroke lift head as arms press down.
Timing: pull and breathe. As arms extend forwards, legs drive backward. Pull, breathe, kick, and glide.
Turns: touch according to Rules. Fast tuck and rocking action. Stay low. Push, glide and stroke (as for start).
Finish: In stretch position, according to Rules.


Body position: close to surface, undulating – initiated from the hips. Legs kick from hips. Drive feet down forcefully, toes pointed.
Arms: entry in front in line with shoulders. Hands scull out then under body. Release at or past hips. Recovery totally over water.
Breathing: to front or side. Head down before arms enter. Head up before hands release.
1. Kick as hands enter.
2. Kick as hands push. Continuous action (no glide).
Turns: as breaststroke up to push off. After push kick in stretch. One pull smoothly into stroke.
Finish: in stretch position, according to Rules.