BayTrust has granted $10,000 to Swimming New Zealand in an effort to help thousands of Western Bay school children learn to enjoy the water safely.
Swimming NZ trains local primary school teachers on how to run swimming lessons in schools via their 'Kiwi Swim Safe Programme'. Since the programme's inception in 2010, over 2000 Bay of Plenty teachers have received support across 137 different schools. Those teachers have then gone on to successfully run lessons for approximately 32,000 local children.
Swimming NZ's education advisor for the Bay of Plenty, Erin Fowler, said learning water safety skills at school was crucial because only 20 per cent of children had access to private swimming lessons.
"There are many reasons for that - cost is a big one. Also not everyone has the time to attend professional lessons every week or has easy access to a pool."
Despite aquatics being part of the national curriculum, teachers usually spend just one day studying the subject while at teacher training college.
"There's the odd teacher who's confident to teach swimming but most are unsure. Class management is a big part of what we do - showing teachers how to handle 30 kids in the pool all at once, all with different swimming abilities."
Ms Fowler runs cluster workshops across the region, works with individual schools and also offers 'poolside support' to teachers while aquatic lessons are underway.
"We've seen huge progress over the years as a result of our Kiwi Swim Safe Programme. Local teachers are now able to take kids with minimal skills and get them to a level where they're able to participate in swimming sports which is fantastic."
Children are also taught important water safety skills in the classroom such as how to recognise hazards and understand their own ability.
Swimming NZ's national education manager, Chris Morgan, said more than 95 per cent of Bay teachers say they feel more confident after working with Erin to deliver a quality swimming programme to their students.
Last year 113 people drowned in New Zealand, seven of which occurred in the Bay of Plenty. Most drownings are preventable, and Swimming NZ is working closely with Water Safety New Zealand to try and reduce that drowning toll.
"We get no Government funding so receiving money from organisations like BayTrust is vital. We don't have offices - our staff work out of their cars and operate on a very low cost and efficient basis. Every cent we get goes straight back into local communities.''
BayTrust chief executive Alastair Rhodes said this was the first time Swimming NZ had applied for a grant, and BayTrust was delighted to support their Kiwi Swim Safe Programme.
"Our children grow up surrounded by water here in the Bay of Plenty and it's important they learn about water safety at an early age.
"Swimming NZ are doing an excellent job of training our local teachers and giving them confidence to deliver effective swimming and water safety lessons at school.
"We believe this $10,000 grant towards operational costs will be money well spent as it will strengthen our communities and enable children of all ages to safely have fun in the water."