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New strategy to get more kids learning Water Skills for Life

Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) has undertaken a strategic refresh to get greater cut through with its Water Skills for Life aquatic education programme for children aged five to 13.

Water Skills for Life is delivered to children in New Zealand primary schools. It is linked into the national education curriculum and gives children in years 1 – 8 the skills and knowledge they need to assess risk and make smart decisions around water.

Drowning is the leading cause of recreational death and the third highest cause of accidental death in New Zealand. In 2019 there were 82 preventable drowning fatalities.

The goal of this new Water Skills for Life strategy is to get more kiwi kids access to opportunities to learn these critical water safety competencies.

“Aquatic education is part of the New Zealand Curriculum and WSNZ would like to see Water Skills for Life as an entrenched part of every New Zealand child’s early education. By year six every child should have these foundational skills and knowledge so they are able to assess risk and stay safe,” says WSNZ CEO Jonty Mills.

A refreshed and stronger relationship with Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) is critical to this new strategy. SNZ will lead the professionalisation of professional development for school teachers so more students will have the opportunity to learn in a school pool with teacher support.

“We agree this is key to the success of this programme and to bringing down our drowning toll,” says SNZ CEO Steve Johns. “We look forward to working together with WSNZ to deliver Water Skills for Life to as many children as possible through a more efficient delivery model.”

This refreshed model is the most effective way to achieve broad reach so more New Zealanders have a basic level of aquatic education.

“Currently we reach around 200,000 Kiwi kids through our annual funding round – it is our hope that through this refreshed model we will see widespread uptake of Water Skills for Life,” says Jonty Mills.

School principals whose students have experienced Water Skills for Life say the real world knowledge and skills taught in the programme are vital to growing up in New Zealand.

Jenny Williams is the principal of Totara Park School in Northland and says Water Skills for Life provides children with fun experiences in the water presented at their level so they get a lot out of it.

“Our children are surrounded by water and they need to know what to do if something goes wrong,” says Jenny Williams.

Water Skills for Life gives them that in a dynamic and fun way that stays with them.”

As a nation surrounded by water, learning practical water survival skills at an early age is essential for lifelong safety. By learning Water Skills for Life, not only will our children learn to keep themselves safe, they will also be taking part in an active programme that supports their health and wellbeing.

Water Skills for Life is the foundation on which we can build a New Zealand where everyone has the skills and knowledge to enjoy our beautiful waterways safely, and so we can work towards a future where no one drowns,” says Jonty Mills.


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