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Swimming for students with additional needs



Primary aged students with additional needs, including those who attend either schools for specific purposes (SSPs) or specialist support classes in their local public school, are encouraged to participate in the School Swimming and Water Safety Programs.

School swimming & water safety run both a swimming and water safety (10 day) program and a water safety (survival swimming - 5 day) program that can be run in modified formats to accommodate additional needs students. When appropriate, programs can be completely modified to suit individual needs.

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Program overview

School swimming and water safety programs are modified to allow the individual to realise their full potential in the water. The aims being to:

  • provide enjoyable, safe experiences in an aquatic environment
  • provide instruction in swim strokes
  • provide instruction in skills which promote safety and survival in the water
  • provide social experiences during aquatic participation.

Teachers employ a flexible approach catering for all needs, regardless of which program is being participated in by the students.

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Registration details

Dashapp School Registration

Dashapp School Registration (Guide)

Applications for inclusion in the School swimming and water safety programs generally open in December each year and close at the end of February.

For any technical issues with registration in DASH please call the Swimming and water safety office for guidance.

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Staffing the program and supervision

School swimming and water safety programs are conducted by Department of Education teachers that hold learn to swim qualifications. When qualified teachers aren’t available the role is filled by community members and pool staff.

Where integrated students are included, additional school staff may be required to assist reduce the group sizes and should be ready to enter the water. 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 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 specialist support classes, smaller numbers of students will be allocated to each session to reduce the ratio and the lesson time shortened.

Where possible, lessons for students with additional needs are run with greatly reduced teacher to student ratios. This ratio is usually one teacher to one student, for 20 minutes when working in SSPs. In some cases, where students are more capable, classes of one teacher to two or three students will be conducted for 30 minutes. When considering a ratio of one teacher to two or three students, the following must be considered:

  • swimming level must be compatible
  • children must be able to follow instructions
  • it must be safe in the water for the students
  • it must be safe for the teacher
  • it must be on the discretion of the TIC after students' swimming levels have been assessed.
  • schools should provide individual health plans for students who require them.

For Workplace Health and Safety reasons, a rotational system should be used to ensure that Program staff take regular breaks. This aims to reduce the effects of dehydration due to the physical nature of the lessons. This should mean that at any given moment, there will be one swimming teacher not taking a class.

Many schools for specific purposes have a pool on site. In these cases, the program is timetabled so that the school pool can be used.

Schools need to ensure that there is sufficient accompanying staff to supervise the students changing, following the guidelines regarding student privacy. Students that require assistance entering and leaving the pool must be supported by school staff.

Schools need to consider:

  • a student may be compliant in the classroom, however may not be compliant in the pool
  • students may tire quickly
  • play time in the water is not the same as swimming lessons. This is swimming and water safety, not a recreational play opportunity
  • our goal for each and every student is that they learn to swim and be safe in and around water.

The one teacher to one student ratio is the most beneficial and effective way to teach students with additional needs. The student is safe, the instructors are safe, and the 20 minute lesson is very productive and professional.

Any students that are known to suffer from a seizure condition needs to have an individual pool deck spotter while they are in the pool. This extra supervisor doesn’t need to be a teacher.

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.

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.

School swimming and water safety 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 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.


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.

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Application and resource pack

Applications for inclusion in the School swimming and water safety programs generally open in December each year and close at the end of February.

As school bookings are confirmed you will receive:

  • a letter advising the number of hours of instruction allocated
  • roll books (1 for every group of 30 students or 1 for every 10 students in an SSP)
  • certificates of achievement (for school managed programs)
  • administrative paperwork - (these documents can be accessed via Administration Resources) below

Pool and transport organisation and costing

Instruction is free/funded. Schools cover cost of transport and pool entry should it be required.

Adjusting number of sessions

The timetable reflects school application numbers. 

For schools considering either adding or removing students, it’s important that the School Swimming and water safety office is contacted.

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Administration Resources

Select the headings below to view the information and documents.

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