Swim teachers too few to meet demand

Sink or swim . . . JC Swimmers owner Jo Cheesebrough is con cerned over a lack of swimming teachers, but says the community could fill the gap. PHOTO: MICHAEL CURREEN

Drownings are at their highest numbers in 40 years according to swimming teacher Jo Cheesebrough and she may know why.

“We’ve got the community pools. We’ve got the families who want the lessons. We just don’t have the instructors,” she said.

Her business, JC Swimmers, was facing a very high demand for swimming lessons.

“Knapdale wanted instructors in term one. We’ve had to say no.”

It was one of six pools she had turned down due to a lack of instructors.

“Where are these kids going to learn to swim? Because we’re full and I’m assuming all the other swim schools are full as well,” Ms Cheesebrough said.

“I’m not saying kids are not getting lessons, because they are, but there’s obviously more demand than we can meet.”

A change of mindset needed to happen, she said.

“Who have we got in the community? Who could step up and train?”

They did not need to be a qualified swimming instructor to teach a child the basics.

Getting children comfortable around water and building a respect for it was the important thing.

“Get in the water, play with them and try and be relaxed as you can, even if you’re not comfortable. Just stay well within your depth,” she said.

Sometimes the best instructors were those who were self-taught because they could empathise better with the children.

“If you’ve got patience, love kids and love the water, it’s a really rewarding job.”

Ms Cheesebrough was also willing to show adults valuable teaching skills, such as the proper way to hold a child in the water.

While swimming was part of the school curriculum, it was not always as effective as it could be.

“If a teacher has no idea how to teach a child how to swim, they’re not going to regularly bring those kids into the pool,” she said.

“There’s a lot of adults that don’t know how to swim.”

Yet teaching children to swim was vital as water was a key part of our culture.

“They’re either going to be sat on the sidelines when all their mates are in the river, or they’re going to join them through peer pressure and maybe not make it home.”