Throwing kids in the deep end

SINK OR SWIM: Gail Smail.
SINK OR SWIM: Gail Smail. File

SWIMMING is a way of life in Queensland, yet our children are lagging behind the rest of the country.

Kids are leaving primary school unable to swim and there are growing fears we no longer provide children the tools they need to survive in the water.

With the exception of Queensland, all states have comprehensive State Government programs in place to teach primary students to swim.

Experts warn the decline in swimming ability is creating a generation of Queensland kids who cannot swim to save themselves, and they have called for immediate action to prevent a rise in drownings.

Stanthorpe swim teacher Gail Smail said it was time the issue was addressed.

"Kids learning to swim throughout all of their life is so important,” she said.

"It's a lifetime skill and if they haven't got that, when they leave Grade 12, the biggest fear of a parent is them going down to Schoolies and getting in the water and they can't swim.

"Granite Belt schools do a pretty good job here. They do encourage kids to have lessons and outside school lessons as well.”

The Smail's Swim School has been teaching Stanthorpe kids for years and Gail, a Queensland Swimming life member, says she's baffled by our state's lag.

"We do them right from babies here,” she said.

"Getting them water confident, used to the water, being in that experience of being in cold or warm water, how to get themselves out of a dam.

"We (people generally) tend to get a bit lackadaisical about these things.

"Western Australia, South Australia... they've all pushed it.

"They all live on the beaches as well but we've got one of the biggest stretches of beaches going.

"But why we're behind? I don't know. There's no reason for it.

"We've got surplus amounts of pools and swim schools.

"I think one of the biggest problems is often the school curriculum. There's a lot of subjects crammed into the curriculum and swimming can take a lot out of their school day but it is such a vital, vital skill.”

Stanthorpe Border Post

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