Beaches, Rivers, Lakes, Manus, Beaches, Water-holes, Rock-jumping, Boating, Fishing… The first of many elements of the Kiwi summer that Kiwi Kids look forward to and daydream about all year round at school. But what do these awesome activities have in common? Swimming. Swimming. Swimming. That doesn’t sound like a problem if you can swim confidently, but unfortunately, this is not the case for many kids around New Zealand. I would therefore, argue that swimming lessons, even just at a beginner level, should be compulsory in schools.

Now I’m not saying that kids need to know how to run, swim, bike, bat and ball to enjoy the summer. But there is official recognition that swimming is different. Even those who otherwise despise sport can recognise the value of being able to swim. It can, literally, save your life, maybe even someone else’s. It’s also a skill that lasts a lifetime, with all the benefits that come with it. Most of all, it can be great fun. Learning to swim as an adult is much more difficult, and would only become more daunting with time. It would take countless boring and early-morning pool trips until you finally wind up doing it. It would never be the natural process it would be if you learnt as a kid.

ONE News took a poll asking people “Should the government provide funding to make swimming lessons compulsory in all public schools?” The results were striking, with 85 per cent of those polled answering yes, 11 per cent answering no, and four per cent saying they didn’t know. To me, that’s more than enough support! People can recognise how invaluable swimming is, and how important it is kids learn from an early age.

I would argue that making swimming compulsory in schools is worth any amount of persuasion and investment. Learning to swim is an absolute good. It can’t hurt you. It doesn’t matter how old you are. Making it compulsory might seem a bit intense, but let’s be honest, it would be a lot more relevant than some stuff that is already compulsory for school kids.

Learning to swim is about living a full life and living the Kiwi dream. It’s about making sure that Kiwi Kids are going to be safe and avoid tragedy in the future. It shouldn’t matter where in the country they are, if some kids get free swimming lessons, all kids should be getting them. If swimming in schools was to be made compulsory, all school students would have equal opportunity to learn how to swim, to enjoy the Kiwi Summer to its full extent, and to keep themselves and others safe. What could be more worth it than that?

Hannah Skelton

Critical Thinking Challenges:

1. Do you believe kids learning to swim while they are at school is necessary? Why?

2. Assuming it should be necessary, think of three ways to make this happen. Whose role is it to make it compulsory in all schools across the country?

3. Would teachers be responsible, or would swimming coaches come in? Would this be worth it financially?

Practical Tasks:

1. Ask your parents what they think is best, and what worked with you and your siblings. Did you have to learn how to swim somewhere other than school. Do you or your parents wish you had been able to learn at school?

2. Research the importance of learning to swim in NZ. What are the statistics like at the moment in relation to kids not being able to swim facing danger in the water? How can these be changed?

3. Go for a swim! If you can’t swim, talk to your parents or teachers about booking some lessons. If you can swim and know a friend who isn’t water-confident, head down to the pool with them (with some supervision) and help them gain some confidence in the water before summer rolls around.

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