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5 Day centrally coordinated program

The focus of this program is on personal safety, survival techniques including life jacket use and rescue skills. The program aims to develop the practical skills and knowledge related to keeping safe in the water and the ability to help others in emergency situations.

A standard day in the Survival swimming program consists of a maximum 5 sessions of 50 minutes. Each group attends one lesson daily for 5 days. 

On the first day of the program, students are grouped based on the distance that they can swim using their strongest stroke. Teachers record the metres in the class roll. 

To maximise student progress, teachers focus on instruction. Teachers extend and progress the skills as they are achieved by students. 

On day four students’ longest survival swim distance and survival sequence are assessed. These results are then transferred to the Certificate of Achievement. All school statistics are collated and recorded for the school and the NSW School Sport Unit.

On day 5 all students will swim dressed in clothes to gain understanding of the difficulty this experience brings.

The teaching program is available on request through the School swimming and water safety office. 

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Registration details

Register your school here: Dashapp School Registration

Dashapp School Registration Guide (PDF 407KB)

The Sport Unit coordinated programs are organised by the Department of Education NSW School Sport office on behalf of applying schools. These centralised timetables are based on the information provided by schools in their applications.

Applying schools should supply:

  • the approximate number of students participating
  • the additional needs of any students preferred venue
  • preferred term
  • dates of unavailability
  • school day start and finish times
  • name of the coordinating teacher of the school.

This information will help create a timetable for the program. NSW School Sport will then secure teachers and a venue on behalf of the school. School preferences are not always able to be met due to venue and staff availability. A program resource pack is then sent to the school, informing them of their allocated sessions, times, dates and venue.

This pack is designed to assist schools in getting organised in preparation for the Survival swimming program. Please note that schools are responsible for organising transport and pool entry costs.

Staff employed to instruct in the program are NSW Department of Education teachers or swim instructors who have an AUSTSWIM or equivalent qualification. Typically, three swimming teachers and one school staff member teach a maximum of 60 students maintaining a ratio of 1:15. Applicant numbers, specific needs of students and pool environments may require smaller class sizes. In these cases, staffing arrangements may be adjusted.

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Staffing the program and supervision

The Survival swimming program is conducted by Department of Education teachers or swim instructors that hold learn to swim qualifications. When qualified teachers aren’t available the role is filled by community members and pool staff.

In the average session of 60 students, participating schools provide a teacher to conduct pool deck supervision and 1 to 2 teachers to take a group of students and be prepared to get in the pool.

The responsibility of providing a safe and positive learning experience is shared between the swimming teachers and the school staff. A shared duty of care exists.

Teaching and supervision ratios

An average teaching ratio of 1 teacher to 15 students (1:15) is in place for all groups in the water. An overall supervision ratio of 1:12 exists with all staff included.

Where integrated students are included additional school staff may be required to assist reduce the group sizes. Qualified or experienced adults can be included in the supervision plan, providing that the principal is satisfied with their ability, and that there are sufficient teachers to teach and supervise lessons. 

For students with additional needs, supervision requirements will vary and need to be assessed. If students have health plans, a copy must be provided to the Survival swimming program Teacher in Charge.

In assessing the level of additional supervision required, consider:

  • the nature and location of the activity
  • the number of students involved, and their swimming ability
  • the age, maturity and gender of students
  • the method of travel, distance, and route to the location
  • the experience and qualifications of the adult supervisors.

For groups from Schools for Specific Purposes and support units, smaller numbers of students will be allocated to each session to reduce the ratio and the lesson time shortened.

If a student has known seizure conditions, there must be one additional supervisor for each such child in the water. This extra supervisor doesn’t need to be a teacher.

Identifying staff from participating schools

The Department of Education values the involvement of enthusiastic staff from schools across NSW. Principals should select the most qualified and experienced teachers, and also those with an interest in teaching learn-to-swim and water safety.

Specific staffing requirements from participating schools are as follows:

  • one teacher is required per 30 students. A maximum session size of 60 students is in place
  • one teacher will provide pool deck supervision. For groups above 30 the second teacher will be required take a group
  • support is provided by program staff and teaching resources and suggested activities are available at the pool
  • the same 2 teachers should be available for all 5 lessons
  • schools are encouraged to have both male and female escorting teachers where possible
  • if no AUSTSWIM qualified school staff are available, other keen teachers can be used
  • one additional spotter is required for each student with known seizure conditions
  • extra support must be provided for the inclusion of students with additional needs, and class sizes should be appropriate for the needs of such students.
Role of the school teacher taking a group

The school teacher responsible for their own group of students will have lots of support in performing this role. Daily mentoring prior to each session by the Teacher in Charge (TIC) will take place, and ideally, the group will be positioned near a Survival swimming program teacher.

The teacher should:

  • be familiar with the program content and resource folder
  • teach a group of mid-range students
  • understand that teaching ratios are approximately one teacher to 15 students
  • be given relevant skill cards by the TIC
  • complete skills checklists and certificates for their own group
  • return the skills checklists and certificates to the TIC at the beginning of the last lesson.
Role of the pool deck supervising teacher

The teacher supervising pool deck is not directly involved in teaching a group of students. Instead, they are responsible for the overall supervision of lessons taking place.

On arrival, the pool deck supervising teacher should:

  • provide the TIC with student health plans, and any other relevant student information
  • supervise the change rooms
  • decide where bags and belongings will be placed
  • direct students to the assembly point, and supervise them until lessons begin.

During lessons, the pool deck supervising teacher should:

  • maintain roll books and other paperwork
  • ensure students with special needs are brought to the attention of their swimming teachers
  • assist other teachers as required
  • encourage students
  • help with disruptive students
  • attend to sick or injured students
  • supervise students leaving groups for any reason
  • supervise change rooms after the lesson
  • fill in accident reports when required.
Physical contact with students

Child protection procedures are an important part of the program. There are two main elements. Firstly, procedures are in place to protect students from harm, and secondly, students are educated to know the difference between touch that is appropriate, and that which is not.

The Survival swimming program is in a unique place when it comes to child protection, as appropriate physical contact is necessary to support, assist, and demonstrate to students.

Seeking permission

Before the program begins, the Teacher in Charge (TIC) will inform school staff and students that appropriate physical contact will be required during the class. If any student is uncomfortable with this, they must be removed from lessons until parental permission is confirmed.

It’s important to:

  • explain to students why physical contact will be required
  • explain what the contact will be, and where specifically
  • during classes, ask for volunteers, or ask a student’s permission before any physical contact
  • minimise the need for touch in classes
  • give students verbal instructions first. If they are unsure of techniques, use peer demonstration and teaching aids before opting for physical contact.
Supervision of change rooms

It is the role of schools to supervise the use of change rooms, and ensure duty of care is carried out. This is not the role of swimming teachers, as they have the next lesson to teach.

While change room supervision can present some difficulties, teachers can take steps to avoid any issues:

  • explain the change room rules and expected student behaviour
  • set a routine for going into change rooms, and keep to it
  • inform students that if there is an emergency, you will need to enter the change room
  • before entering, let students know, so that they have the opportunity to cover up
  • choose two student representatives to report any problems to you
  • call all students out of the rooms if there is a disturbance. If any students remain, seek accompaniment to go into the change room
  • do not stand in the change rooms, students have a right to their privacy.


Class Safety 

The Survival swimming program is often run in outdoor pools, so it’s important to make sure that students are kept safe, and protected from the harsh Australian sun.

Students should apply broad spectrum, water resistant SPF 30+ sunscreen before leaving school, and be wearing hats whenever they are out of the water. Rash shirts are highly recommended in outdoor pools.

The Teacher in Charge is responsible for the overall safety of the program. This involves:

  • speaking with the facility manager
  • ensuring that school staff don’t allow students to access the pool outside of lesson time
  • establishing suitable assembly points for the groups
  • allocating water space for the group sizes based on ability levels
  • ensuring appropriate water safety items and safety equipment are available
  • ensuring emergency procedures are in place and participating staff are prepared
  • instructing school staff on 'scanning and surveillance' techniques
  • ensuring that daily safety talks are presented to the students
  • ensuring that underwater swimming is restricted to that required in class
  • ensuring close supervision of students entering the water and near any diving tower.
Teaching equipment and rescue equipment

Teaching equipment can be very useful in making learning more enjoyable, and providing students with a temporary boost that helps them concentrate on, and achieve a new skill. Equipment can also be used for safety, especially when water conditions aren’t ideal for the level of ability. For example, a beginner in deep water.

The Teacher in Charge must make sure all necessary rescue equipment is readily available at the venue.

In addition to buoyancy and reaching aids, the pool may provide:

  • hoists for easy access to the pool for students with disabilities
  • a well-supplied medical kit, kept readily available
  • a communication system, to ensure that medical assistance or an ambulance can be contacted without delay if a situation arises.
Emergency Procedures

In the event of an emergency, students and teachers need to be aware of their roles.

Most pools will have well documented emergency procedures, and it’s important that teachers and students are familiar with them.

Access to emergency equipment, most importantly to a telephone, must be maintained at all times.

An emergency plan is crucial in preparing everyone to handle such a situation.

When developing an emergency plan, consider:

  • staff roles and responsibilities
  • the location of the nearest phone; note that mobile phones may not work in all locations
  • ambulance location and phone number
  • the location and phone number of nearest medical assistance
  • transport to nearest medical assistance
  • ensuring that a first aid kit is available, unlocked, and well-stocked
  • being aware of rescue equipment such as ropes, poles, and floating aids
  • being aware of personnel with first aid qualifications
  • knowing where the first aid signal is, and how to use it
  • state of emergency procedures, such as emergency action, role of staff and after-care contacting agencies; such as St John Ambulance, the Fire Brigade, SES, and Poisons Information Bureau.

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Application and resource pack

Applications for inclusion in the Survival swimming program open in January each year and close at the end of February.

Schools will receive an email detailing their dates, times, pool and the number of students per session and need to confirm their acceptance of the offer.

As school bookings are confirmed you will receive:

  • a welcome letter
  • sample consent student letter
  • roll books (1 for every group of 30 students)
  • contact details for the program Teacher in Charge. 

Pool and Transport organisation and costing

Instruction is free. Schools cover cost of transport and pool entry. 

The School Sport Unit:

  • books the pool
  • employs teaching staff

Schools are required to organise transport and negotiate pool entry costs.

Adjusting number of sessions

The timetable reflects school application numbers. 

For schools considering either adding or removing a session it’s important that the School Swimming and Water Safety office at the NSW School Sport Unit is contacted. Pool bookings and staffing will need to be adjusted.

Cancellations that occur within 20 school days of beginning date may incur a cancellation fee as the swimming teachers’ employment schedules cannot be reduced within that time frame.

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Adminstrative Resources

Select the link below to view the required documents.