Some of the children seen at the Rotorua Aquatic Centre yesterday were learning more than just back stroke and freestyle, they were learning water skills for life.

Two schools attended the Water Skills For Life programme at the centre but the day wasn't just about educating the children, it was also about teaching the teachers.

The programme, now in its second year, was developed to help children in Years 1 to 8 to learn water safety skills like getting into and out of water, submersion, and treading water.

It is run by Water Safety New Zealand and Swimming New Zealand and also involves teaching the teachers how to deliver the programme in their own schools.

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Western Heights Primary School students learn Water Skills For Life. Photo/Stephen Parker
Western Heights Primary School students learn Water Skills For Life. Photo/Stephen Parker

Swimming New Zealand national education manager Chris Morgan said the programme was designed to be delivered by the classroom teachers.

"There are 1200 school pools in New Zealand and we need to utilise them and teachers' experience to deliver Water Skills for Life."

Morgan said roughly a quarter of children had private swim lessons but the majority learned at school.

"We're giving them the skills to stay afloat."

Water Skills for Life being taught to Western Heights Primary School pupils. Photo/Stephen Parker
Water Skills for Life being taught to Western Heights Primary School pupils. Photo/Stephen Parker

She said the day was about teaching the teachers to run the programme by running it with their children and having them watch.

The teachers also did classroom sessions with the coastguard and Surf Life Saving New Zealand.

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Rotorua Intermediate School teacher Joanna Mitchell said the lessons were a fantastic opportunity.

"We live around so many lakes so learning to tread water, lie on your back and get into the pool safely are vital skills.

"For our children who don't have the privilege of having swim lessons this is such a valuable skill."

Claire Baylis, who works for Swim Rotorua, said the programme aimed to take the pressure off teachers to teach technical skills.

Swim Rotorua also runs the programme as part of its Making the Difference - Kia Tū Whakarerekē - Water Safety Programme.

Swim Rotorua has recently been given $30,000 from Water Safety New Zealand to run it.

This school term Malfroy Primary School, Selwyn Primary and Owhata Primary are all taking part in the programme.