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Swimming at beach and inland waterways


Principals and organising teachers should take into account such factors as nature of the activity, age, experience and maturity of the students, water conditions at the venue and experience and qualifications of the adult supervisors when arranging appropriate supervision.

The activity supervision plan should include provision for students when they are not swimming. This would indicate where these students should be, what they can do and how they are to be supervised. For students with disabilities, supervision requirements will vary and need to be assessed accordingly. In any case, the minimum supervision ratio for students who are not swimming should be no more than one staff member to twenty students (1:20).

A major factor when determining 'adequate supervision' that teachers must afford their students in aquatic activities in these locations is the swimming ability of the students in the class. Therefore, a reasonable assessment of student swimming ability should be made as close to the commencement of the activity as possible. Provision then needs to be made for the safe participation of weak or poor swimmers. This will involve additional, close supervision, restricting them to shallow water, and implementing a ‘buddy’ system.

A minimum of two adult supervisors with appropriate expertise and/or training in the teaching or instruction of swimming must be present at all times. They must also have the ability to competently initiate an emergency rescue. The adult supervisor to student ratio in any swimming activity is not to exceed 1:15.

At beach locations: At least one supervisor must possess a current SLSA Bronze Medallion or SLSA Surf Rescue Certificate or APOLA School Surfing Supervisor Award.

At inland waterways: At least one supervisor must possess a current RLSSA Bronze Medallion or a SLSA Bronze Medallion or SLSA Surf Rescue Certificate.

All other supervisors actively supervising or instructing in the water must hold a current qualification in one of the following: RLSSA Bronze Medallion, SLSA Patrol Bronze Medallion or SLSA Surf Rescue Certificate, APOLA Ocean Safety Surf Coach Award, Surfing Australia Level One Coaching Certificate or AUSTSWIM Teacher of Swimming and Water Safety or ASCTA Swim Teacher Australia  Certificate.

Lifeguards may only be included in the staff to student ratio if they do not have general lifeguard duties at the venue at the time, and their sole responsibility is to the students in the program.

Where a surf patrol or lifeguard is on duty and students are within the designated patrol area, staff members must still meet the qualifications requirements and maintain supervisory responsibilities.

The teacher-in-charge of the activity must arrange for all swimming areas to be supervised, including the change rooms and amenities. In addition, there must be at least one supervisor patrolling the venue to exercise overall supervision. All teachers must be ready to render assistance in case of emergency. It is desirable that all supervising teachers are in swimming attire.

Appropriately qualified and/or experienced adults may be included in the supervision plan, provided that the principal is satisfied with their ability and qualifications and that there are sufficient teachers to maintain control of the activity and assume overall responsibility.

Appropriate roll marking procedures must be established.

A Supervision Guide
Supervision guide by venue type
Venue type Supervision
Confined shallow water at natural venues

Students with little or no experience - the adult supervisor:student should not exceed 1:10. A 1:15 ratio may apply to students who are able to competently swim 100m.

Deep open water including deep and/or flowing water at non-surf beaches, lakes and rivers.

Students taking part in deep water activities should be able to competently swim, using recognised strokes, 200m. Students should be proficient in survival sculling and treading water. A supervisor:student ratio of 1:10 is recommended in these circumstances.

Patrolled surf beaches (Non-patrolled beaches are not to be used for swimming activities).

As a guide, a supervisor:student ratio of 1:10 applies. However, supervision may need to be increased taking into account:

  • Type of activity/program e.g. recreational swimming, structured surf awareness program, surf life saving 
  • Student ages and experiences e.g. no familiarity with surf at all
  • Student swimming ability
  • Use of supplementary support eg. instructors provided by SLS NSW or lifeguard services
  • Experience and qualification of teachers and adult supervisors



  • A minimum of two qualified adult supervisors must be present at all times.
  • A teacher must be present who has current training in CPR and emergency care.
  • Group size should not exceed fifty students.
  • The younger the student and the deeper the water, the greater will be the supervision required


Adequate and appropriate rescue equipment must be available and placed ready for use by suitably qualified teachers and/or instructors. Rescue tube or rescue board and fins are essential.

A megaphone, air horn, or whistle should be available to allow the leader and observers to communicate with those in the water.

An appropriate communication system must be readily available in the case of an emergency. Where mobile phones are to be used, teachers should be aware that they may not operate in all locales.

A well-equipped OH&S Category B first aid kit containing a resuscitation mask with one way valve must be readily available.


When assessing the suitability of a swimming venue prior to conducting the activity, considerations should be given to the following:

  • The ages and abilities of the students.
  • The qualifications and experience of supervising staff.
  • The capacity to clearly define the swimming area.
  • Analysis of risks and hazards to determine if a satisfactory plan can be developed to ensure.
  • The safety of students.
  • The depth and condition of the water in relation to the skills of the students.
  • Available shelter from sun, wind and rain given likely weather conditions.
  • The suitability of facilities including the need for changing clothes and security of clothing.
  • Emergency communication.
  • Intrusion into the school group by uninvited members of the public.
  • First aid and rescue equipment.
  • Venue access for emergency purposes.

The prevailing water or surf conditions must be assessed thoroughly by the teacher-in-charge/leader on arrival. If the conditions are unsuitable at any time, the swimming component of the activity must be cancelled. Teachers should ensure that students comply with signage and instructions from the beach patrol or facility authorities.

Beach Locations

Recreational swimming and body surfing is only to be conducted at a location recognised as a safe surfing location, where a surf patrol or council beach inspector lifeguard is operating and where rescue equipment is readily available.

A safe surfing area must be defined by the teacher-in-charge in consultation with the beach authorities and will always be indicated by flags. Students are to be instructed to remain within this area. Supervising staff should ensure that students remain in the designated activity area.

Schools are strongly encouraged to contact the respective seaside council lifeguard service, Surf Life Saving NSW or regional offices of the Department of Sport and Recreation in the planning of the activity.

These organisations are able to provide information and further advice concerning the conduct of the activity. Seaside councils or the local branch of Surf Life Saving NSW are often able to provide instruction in various surfing activities. Schools are advised to give advance notice to secure times and venues for their proposed activity.

Inland Waterways

Recreational swimming at an Inland water location is only to be conducted at an area recognised as a safe swimming location. Councils will be able to recommend suitable areas and advise on available water safety services.

The teacher-in-charge should produce a documented risk assessment of the activity prior to the activity being approved by the principal. This assessment will identify major risks and hazards and make judgements as to the likely occurrence of difficulties, their severity and consequences. It will indicate any actions that are being taken to minimise or reduce risks and hazards.

The boundaries of the safe swimming area should be defined e.g. floats or anchored buoys linked with ropes.

A supervisor or lifeguard with current qualifications in rescue, resuscitation and first aid must be present.


The teacher-in-charge must ensure that all staff and students are adequately briefed in water safety and swimming techniques applicable to the venue and the lesson, "buddy" safety system, appropriate communication signals, cooperative nature of the activity and safe working practice.

Signs, rules and conditions established by local controlling authorities must be observed.

Because of the risks inherent in aquatic activities, the teacher-in-charge of the group must ensure that a plan detailing suitable emergency procedures is in place and that it will ensure access to emergency support without compromising the duty of care to the group or a casualty. All staff must be familiar with the plan.

The supervising teacher must be aware of the location of all participants in their charge. Procedures for regular, on-going accounting for the number of students in a group should be established. A "buddy" system should be established for all water activities.

No student is to enter the water without appropriate supervision.

If the swimming venue does not have sufficient shade and shelter facilities, temporary shelter or shorter swimming sessions should be considered. Supervisors should be aware of conditions contributing to, and symptoms of, over exposure to heat (hyperthermia) and over exposure to cold (hypothermia).

Many natural venues do not have drinking water readily available. The provision of water and ensuring that the students drink it, particularly on hot days, should be included in the planning. Students are not, under any circumstances, to dig tunnels or large holes in sandy locations because of the unstable nature of the material. Students must be advised of this instruction.