5 May 2011
St Peter Chanel School is trying to stem the number of drownings by signing up to a swim safe programme on the Kapiti Coast.
Thirty-eight people have drowned in New Zealand this year, 10 more than at the same time last year.
The programme teaches children not only how to swim, but how to stay safe in the water.
Principal Maia Williams says though maintain a pool is expensive, she feels it is important children can swim.
‘Water safety is a huge part of what Otaki is about because there are so many waterways here,’ she told Tasha Black of the Kapiti Observer.
A caretaker tests the water twice daily and the pool has to meet council regulations. Vandalism is an added cost.
The school is one of four Kapiti schools which have signed up to Kiwi Swim Safe.
Students learn how to fit a life jacket, treat water wearing clothing and use what they can find around them for flotation in an emergency.
Mrs Williams said it was about getting children to have fun while learning the necessary skills to keep themselves safe in the water.
St Peter Chanel students swim every day in the summer for 45 minutes to an hour, learning at their ability rather than in their year group.
But not all children are as fortunate and Water Safety New Zealand general manager Matt Claridge said once school pools are closed, ‘they will never be opened again’.
He said children are generally less competent in the water than they used to be.
Kapiti Learn to Swim owner Mandi McKenzie said children should be able to float and, if they fell in, to swim to an edge by around seven. But some were ‘slipping through’ and growing up unable to swim.
This story was first published in the Kapiti Observer, March 31, 2011.
Image: Children at St Peter Chanel school are taught to use anything they can find for emergency flotation.