Learn to Swim

A guide to the Learn to Swim Programme

The differences between school swimming lessons and lessons outside of school


The differences between school swimming lessons and lessons outside of school* are not as many as parents believe. However, there are some things to consider…

*Lessons outside of school refers to any private lessons, one-to-one lessons or lessons from a provider.


Of all the differences between school swimming lessons and lessons outside of school, the cost is the most apparent. School swimming lessons are free, whilst lessons outside of school come with a cost as they are more personalised and class sizes tend to be smaller.


School swimming lessons are part of the National Curriculum. So these lessons aim to ensure children are safe around water and can get to safety should they need to. The outcomes are often simpler; for example, to make sure that children can swim the length (25metres unaided) of a pool by the time they finish primary school.

Whilst, lessons outside of school allow a much more comprehensive course of lessons, with one-to-one attention between the swimming teacher and the child. With the aim to teach children everything they need to know about swimming and pool safety, but the emphasis is on them enjoying the experience, keeping healthy and learning to swim at their own pace.

Class size

School Swimming lessons tend to have a higher child to teacher ratio and incorporate different abilities in the same class as the focus is on the curriculum outcomes. These lessons promote working with peers on communicating, collaborating and competing with each other along with problem-solving.

Lessons outside of school have a lower child to teacher ratio and children are of a similar ability, the lessons focus on developing all core aquatic skills and competencies so the child develops the skills necessary to move into a competitive environment in our aquatic disciplines (swimming, water polo, diving or artistic swimming).

Parental Input

In lessons outside of school, swimmers typically work over a slightly longer period of time through the stages of the Swim England Learn to Swim programme and parents can often expect reporting and communication from the lesson provider.

As the child progresses through the stages and becomes a competent swimmer, parents will be able to support and lead their children down different discipline pathways.


If you’re not sure whether to book your child in for lessons outside of school or continue solely through school swimming lessons, here are our main considerations:

  1. Can you afford both?
  2. Does your child really enjoy swimming? This can lead to further opportunities linking with clubs and other disciplines.

If the answer to either of these is no, then there is nothing wrong with allowing your child to learn the essentials at school, then looking at lessons outside of school at a later date if they wish to.

Find your local Swim England Learn to Swim Programme lessons provider by popping in your postcode below.

Please be aware that Swim England suggest the ideal model for all learners is to participate in both out of school swimming lessons and school swimming lessons.

The combination of both will provide your child with an increased opportunity to develop as a long term athlete whilst developing their water safety awareness and confidence.