Inaugural European Aquatics Learn to Swim Conference provided ‘great opportunity’14 November 2023
The inaugural European Aquatics Learn to Swim Conference provided a ‘great opportunity’ to network and share ideas, with around 200 delegates from 28 nations in attendance.
The two day event was held in Jurmala, Latvia, across the 11 and 12 November and saw Olympians, academics and experts from across the aquatic community gather together.
Some of those in attendance were members of Swim England’s learn to swim and water safety teams including the national governing body’s head of learn to swim, Katie Towner, water safety and drowning prevention manager, Ash Jones and school swimming and water safety development officer, Lorna Goldie.
The conference was seen as one of the first steps towards developing a European-wide standard for learning to swim.
Throughout the weekend, the format saw a number of main presentations followed by breakout groups and time to network with colleagues from a variety of nations.
One of those presentations was hosted by Katie, alongside Hanna Guise of Swim Wales and Scottish Swimming’s Gordon Hunter.
The trio spoke about the home nations’ shared vision for school swimming – to equip every child with the life skills of water competence, basic aquatic efficiency and water safety knowledge and awareness.
Image credit: Kaspars Garda / European Aquatics
They described school swimming as the ‘cornerstone of holistic development’ for young learners as their work looks to instil a ‘lifelong love and respect for the water’.
Katie shared her thoughts on the conference, saying: “We were delighted to attend the first-ever European Aquatics Learn to Swim Conference and have the chance to present to representatives from a number of European nations.
“The event provided a great opportunity to share ideas about how we can increase the number of children learning to swim and improve water safety.
“I presented alongside my colleagues from Scottish Swimming and Swim Wales as we discussed our shared vision for school swimming.
“Each provided an overview of the current landscape and common challenges, but explained the collaborative commitment to ensure that every child can confidently and safely navigate the water.
“It was also useful to hear best practices and experiences of other European nations – something which we don’t always have the opportunity to do.
“The conference was extremely insightful and provided a great platform to discuss the importance of learning to swim.”
In addition to the presentation, Ash submitted an abstract to present the positive impact of the Pre-Swimming Familiarisation, Activation and Water Safety programme that has been tested as part of the Inspire 2022 project.
The programme aims to address the limited time available for school swimming and low levels of prior experience and motor competence.
The one hour class or gymnasium-based session introduces basic swim skills that were shown to speed up subsequent skill acquisition.
Explaining this further, Ash added: “I was able to share how the school swimming team’s new Pre-Swimming Familiarisation programme can help both children and teachers to understand what to expect in their first swimming lessons.
“For teachers and lesson providers, the sessions help them to prepare in advance. For the pupils, the dryland exercises help them to become familiar with the movements and terminology.”
On the conference itself, he said: “It was great to hear from so many nations and see Swim England feature as part of the main conference programme.
“We also heard from Summaya Mughal, who spoke about her own inspirational learn to swim journey and touched on our England Swims research.
“Overall, the event enabled us to share information about school swimming and water safety even further, whilst also gaining a better understanding of how these areas are taught throughout Europe.”
Presentations from the main part of the conference were recorded and will soon be available to view on the European Aquatics YouTube channel.