Swim England

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The Pre-School Framework - an introduction for swimming teachers

The Pre-School Framework introduces pre-schoolers to swimming through fun and games.

It also offers support for those learners who may have additional needs, requiring smaller steps. Here’s what you need to know about the Pre-School Framework.

Age group

Suitable for babies and toddlers between 0-5 years-old

Key focus areas

  • Giving children confidence from the word go
  • Teaching the core skills needed to learn the four strokes through fun and games

Corresponding Awards

  • Discovery Duckling
  • Duckling
  • I CAN
  • Adult and Child

Teacher qualifications required

Level 2 Teaching Pre-School Swimming and Level 2 Award in Coaching Aquatic Pre Fundamentals

Recommended training

Adult and Child Training

Pre-School Framework FAQS

Here are some of our more commonly asked questions about the Pre-School Framework.

What are the main changes to the Pre-School Framework post-Nov 2015?

The Swim England Pre-School Framework has been reviewed and refreshed in line with feedback from our partner sites, tutors and parents. The new Framework has been simplified with more supporting resources. This will help more sites to offer adult and child swimming opportunities from an early stage and more parents and children will be able to access lessons.

The Framework now includes the Discovery Duckling Awards to precede the Duckling Awards, which are aimed at younger, less mobile children. The I CAN Awards are new complementary Awards now available to support the Pre-School Framework, in addition to the Adult and Child Award.

New resources include online parent information, games packs, updated Pre-School Framework and story books for younger children.

What qualifications do I need to deliver the Pre-School Framework?

To deliver the Pre-School Framework teachers should hold the ASA Level 2 Award in Coaching Aquatics (Prefundamentals). To find a course please visit the Swim England calendar.

Does the Framework have to be delivered in an Adult and Child class structure?

Please refer to the Safe Supervision for Teaching and Coaching Swimming document for the full overview.

It is recommended that pre-school swimming is delivered in an Adult and Child setting with a ratio of 1 adult : 1 child swimmer, with an ASA Level 2 Teacher teaching from pool side.

If a teacher chooses to enter the water, a full risk assessment needs to be conducted. Teachers must remember it is harder to see all swimmers when they are water based so a ratio of no more than 1:2 is recommended in this scenario.

If we do deliver Adult and Child what are the recommended ratios?

The recommended maximum class ratio is 12 pairs (adult and child pairs) to each ASA Level 2 Teacher.

At what age can babies start swimming?

Infants can start swimming from birth. However babies chill easily and water temperature needs to be considered if this is to happen. Many programmes start baby swimming from around three months, however parents/carers should be encouraged to check with health visitors before enrolling on any swimming programme.

What training is available for the Pre-School Framework?

It is recommended that teachers attend the Adult and Child training before delivering the Pre-School Framework. For teachers using the Alpha Step Awards and working with swimmers with disabilities, there are also a range of other CPDs depending on the needs of the swimmers.

As this is an Adult and Child environment it is important that teachers are comfortable working with adults in the pool and that they have some experience of how to deal with pre-school children. New teachers may benefit from shadowing more experienced teachers if they have not worked with pre-school groups before.

What if a swimmer has completed the Duckling Awards before they reach school age?

The Discovery Duckling and Duckling Awards are very much designed for pre-school aged children, but every child is different and will progress at different speeds.

However, not all swimmers are mature enough and able to concentrate enough to be moved away from the Adult and Child setting.

A teacher can introduce the next stages of the Swim England Learn to Swim Framework to pre-school children if appropriate, but caution should be exercised before moving them into a class of school aged children.

How would I start a Pre-School Framework?

Firstly it is important that you have the right changing and pool facilities to cater for the swimmers and a teacher with the right skills to be able to deliver.

Once these boxes are ticked, you should have a meeting to discuss what needs to be done to run the programme, equipment, pool time, suitable pool space, booking system, etc.

As with any new programme, it is important to gauge local interest and target pre-school groups, nurseries, children’s centres and mums and tots groups. Then try and run a pilot and assess and review the success of the programme with the user group.

Is it advisable to do baby submersion?

Forced infant submersion is not recommended by Swim England. Swim England believe submersion should be voluntary as and when the child is ready.

Progressive aquatic breathing activities should be taught by a qualified Level 2 Teacher to help a child establish water confidence. Some programmes do include submersion, all programmes that offer submersion should only do so with teachers trained in this.

At what age should swimmers start and stop wearing floatation equipment?

There are many factors that could determine this, pool depth, swimmer ability, swimmer confidence, skills being practiced.

As a general rule, floatation equipment can be actively used throughout the Pre-School Framework.

However it is recommended to encourage all swimmers to remove their floatation equipment at some stage during each session (with or without adult support) and experience travel, coordination and buoyancy without floatation equipment.

Do we have to implement all of the Pre-School Framework Awards?

There are a lot of factors that go into the implementation of any swimming programme. It is recommended if pool design and local demographics allow for it, to implement all of the Swim England Learn to Swim Programme to ensure you are delivering a programme to meet the needs of all swimmers and non-swimmers, regardless of age and ability.

Baby and Toddler Swimming Teaching Safety Guidelines

If you offer specialist baby and toddler swimming lessons, make sure you are aware of the British Standards Institution Baby and Toddler Swimming Teaching Safety Guidelines (officially referred to as PAS 520:2015)