Swimming lessons is the process of learning to swim. In most countries there is a definition of a number of swimming levels that is reached in the process of the curriculum. The respective certificates of swimming tests are required for further training in aquatic abilities. Many countries have defined a minimum swimming level that children should reach by the end of primary education, in most cases with the help of school swimming classes being part of the normal curriculum.
Children are often given swimming lessons, which serve to develop swimming technique and confidence. Children generally do not swim independently until 4 years of age.
In many places, swimming lessons are provided by local swimming pools, both those run by the local authority and by private leisure companies. Many schools also include swimming lessons into their Physical Education curricula, provided either in the schools' own pools, or in the nearest public pool. The Department for Education in England includes learning to swim as a compulsory element in Primary School PE Curriculum. At the end of year 6 (age 11) All children must be able to swim 25 metres (front and back) and demonstrate an understanding of water safety. Schools can decide when and where pupils will learn to swim. Many children in the UK learn to swim in lessons that are not provided by their Primary School and can swim 25 metres by the age of 6.
In Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland, the curriculum for 11-year-olds in the fifth grade states that all children should learn how to swim as well as how to handle emergencies near water. Most commonly, children are expected to be able to swim 200 metres (220 yards) – of which at least 50 metres (55 yards) is on their back – after first falling into deep water and getting their head under water. Even though about 95 percent of Swedish school children know how to swim, drowning remains the third most common cause of death among children.
In both the Netherlands and Belgium, swimming lessons during school time (schoolzwemmen, school swimming) are supported by the government. Most schools provide swimming lessons. There is a long tradition of swimming lessons in the Netherlands and in Belgium; the Dutch translation for the breaststroke swimming style is schoolslag (schoolstroke). The children learn a variant of the breaststroke, which is technically not entirely correct.
In Germany and Austria, school swimming ("Schulschwimmen") is part of the elementary school curriculum leading to the entry level certificate "Frühschwimmer" for about 90 percent of the children (a 95% goal set by the ministers for education with actual percentages ranging as low as 75% in some schools). About 50 percent reach a higher swimming level certificate during school swimming. In Switzerland most schools offer a swimming course, however only 70% of the students take part in it which has led to the "Schulschwimmen für alle“ petition in 2007. Unlike in Germany and Austria, a swimming test including a jump from the diving tower is common in Swiss schools.
In France, school swimming ("natation scolaire") is part of the curriculum for physical education in the 2nd and 3rd grade in elementary school, or for children aged between 4 and 6 years of age. The aim is successful completion of entry into water then swimming for 50 metres, before floating for 10 seconds, then swimming on the front and on the back (for 10 metres each), ending with retrieval of an object from deep water of more than 2 metres.
In the UK, the "Top-ups scheme" calls for school children who cannot swim by the age of 11 to receive intensive daily lessons. These children who have not reached Great Britain's National Curriculum standard of swimming 25 metres by the time they leave primary school will be given a half-hour lesson every day for two weeks during term-time. Click here to find out more.