New 'safety' rules keeping swimming coaches out of the water PDF Print E-mail

Fife Sports and Leisure Trust is implementing rules following advice from Scottish Swimming that mean children learning to swim may be supervised from the poolside only and not by an instructor in the water with them.

The Concerns

There seems to be a difference of opinion about whether it is safer for instructors to be in the pool with children or supervising from the side. The concerns are whether a child getting into difficulty will be noticed and how long it will take to be rescued.

Reporting of the story

The Courier (Tayside and Fife) reported the story on 2 September 2011.  A spokesman is reported as saying "Fife Sports and Leisure Trust is implementing swimming teaching policy in line with the Scottish Swimming pool management and programme guide.  As with lifeguards, higher elevation allows the instructor to better spot potential safety issues. All instructors were consulted on this change and parents and students have been advised."  The Fife MSP questioned the practicality of the change saying "Whether in excess of four is a realistic cut-off point I have my doubts. Nevertheless, I can understand the trepidation some teachers may have about not adhering to these guidelines."  One worried mother said: "My two children are very young and have both just started learning to swim and I for one am very concerned about these so-called guidelines.


Fife Today also reported the story.  A parent is reported as saying “I think it’s a very silly decision — I don’t know anyone who thinks it’s a good idea.”  And it has been reported that a child did get into difficultly after the rules were implemented and had to be rescued by a lifeguard.  The report suggests some lifeguards were choosing to ignore the new rules.

Is this Seriously Silly Safety?

Learning to swim is an important life skill and can reduce the risks of individuals drowning in later life.  Therefore, it is important that children have the opportunity to learn to swim.  Equally, they have to be safe whilst learning, and it seems that people do not agree whether it is better for the instructor to be in the water or on the side.  It may be that this is not the decision that is silly but the way swimming lessons are run. In particular, the number of children per instructor, especially for the first few lessons whilst they gain confidence and learn the basics.

Should swimming instructors be allowed in the pool?

In this case the instructors have not been banned from getting into the pool with the children.  The rule simply applies to the number of children they can supervise whilst in the water.