In a recent survey that looked into the most popular recreational sports activities in Australia, guess which one came in at number one?
That's right, swimming.
Data collected showed that over 3.1 million people in Australia reported regularly participating in swimming activities in some way — for recreation, fitness or as a competitive sport. With the beautiful beaches and waterways throughout Australia, this really is no surprise but the number one ranking of swimming, above other popular sports like cricket, football and tennis, can also probably be attributed to the fact it is an activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, from babies and children to the elderly.
However, how many people who spend time in the water have the required level of swimming competency to be able to save themselves if they get into trouble?
The statistics on drowning and near-drowning accidents in Australia every year paint a bleak picture. It seems we love to spend time in and around the water but our water safety skills are not nearly adequate enough.
And this is where you may well come in.
Imagine knowing that you had a hand in saving someone's life because your water safety lessons kicked in when they were in a tricky situation!
If you love being in the water, if you're a confident swimmer with a sound level of competency and if you enjoy working with children or adults in a teaching capacity, then perhaps a job as a swimming instructor is for you.
This article will explain what you need to do to gain swimming teacher qualifications in Australia and talk about the skills you will develop when you do your swimming teacher course.
Do I Need to Do a Course to Become a Swimming Instructor?
There really is nothing to stop people from working for themselves as swimming teachers. However, the risk factors with teaching swimming, especially when it comes to the safety of your students, are far greater than if you are tutoring or teaching something like singing or painting.
A professional qualification from an accredited provider is well worth the cost for peace of mind.
What swimming teacher courses are available?
If you want your swimming teacher qualifications to be recognised throughout Australia, you will want to look for a course that has national accreditation. While there are a number of courses that cover the skills needed to be a swimming instructor, there are two that are recommended because of their national accreditation status and reputation: AUSTSWIM and Swim Australia.
Established in 1979, AUSTSWIM has trained over 360,000 teachers in their Swimming and Water Safety certificate. Every year, they train around 13,000 potential swimming instructors. The AUSTSWIM Teacher Licence is the most widely recognised accreditation in the aquatic industry and is delivered by multiple providers in every state and territory of Australia as well as several overseas locations.
Over the years, AUSTSWIM has been involved in the development of a number of aquatic education programs, and is regarded as an industry leader having pioneered a number of courses including the first:
- Teacher of Swimming and Water Safety course
- Teacher of Access and Inclusion course
- Infant and Preschool course
- Adults course.
With their heavy investment in technology for training and education, AUSTSWIM was also the first to instigate a swimming teacher licencing system and the first to gain ISO certification.
What AUSTSWIM courses can I do?
As a new swimming teacher, you would need to first complete the prerequisite Teacher of Swimming and Water Safety course. Following this qualification, instructors can then undertake a range of swimming teacher qualifications as extension courses where they may branch into areas of personal interest or just further their skills for increased employment opportunities. These extension courses work towards a qualification in:
- Teacher of Infant and Preschool Aquatics
- Teacher of Aquatics - Access and Inclusion
- Teacher of Adults
- Teacher of Towards Competitive Strokes
- WETS Aqua.
The Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association (ASCTA), in conjunction with Swim Australia, are one of the peak bodies in the aquatic industry in Australia. Their goal is to develop exceptional practice in the education, accreditation and professional development of swimming and water safety teachers and swim coaches.
Like AUSTSWIM, Swim Australia and ASCTA have associations throughout Australia as well as overseas.
Swim Australia offers three entry-level swimming teacher qualifications:
- Swim Australia Teacher
- Swim Australia Teacher of Babies and Toddlers
- Swim Australia Teacher of Competitive Swimming.
Their extension courses are designed for teachers to expand their skills to move into specialist learn to swim programs. These courses and qualifications include:
- Swim Australia Teacher of Learners with a Disability
- Swim Australia Teacher of Adolescents and Adults
- Swim Australia Teacher of Cultural Awareness in Aquatics.
ASCTA also run additional aquatic courses: aquatic trainee, aquatic supervisor and pool lifeguard.
What Qualifications Should Swimming Teachers Have?
There are a number of positives and negatives when it comes to working as a swimming teacher. The biggest positive, of course, is being able to work in an environment you love and the satisfaction of helping people learn how to be safe and have fun in the water. For some teachers, the biggest negative can be the ongoing need for accreditation in the form of qualification and certificate renewal.
Of course, the fact that this is required is what ensures your legal safety as a teacher, instructor or coach.
In addition to the qualifications listed in the previous section, what other qualifications or certifications are required?
The minimum industry standard for teachers of swimming and water safety is the base level certificate plus two other components:
- Working with Vulnerable People (WWVP) check
- CPR certificate.
Working with Vulnerable People check
The WWVP is a legal police check required throughout Australia in a large number of industries, including the aquatic industry. Each state and territory has its own process and inclusions. For example, in the ACT and Tasmania, the WWVP is inclusive of children and people with disability. However, in NSW and Victoria, people who work with children require the additional Working with Children Check (WWCC).
Whether a WWVP or WWCC is required, your certificate only covers you for the state or territory in which you applied. So, if you have an ACT WWVP certificate and you want to work in Sydney (NSW) teaching children how to swim, then you must also apply for an NSW WWCC.
Generally, a WWVP or WWCC is valid for 3 years, after which time it will need to be renewed.
CPR stands for Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation and is a specialised first-aid certificate that only focuses on the CPR process. CPR is a life-saving technique that can be performed on unconscious people who are not breathing normally. The technique is designed to sustain life until medical help, such as an ambulance, arrives.
Generally, you will need to organise to do your CPR certificate with an outside provider before you can be awarded your swimming teacher qualifications. There are numerous places you can learn CPR and gain a certificate, both online and in person. St John is nationally recognised, however, there are many others (which a quick online search will turn up).
A CPR certificate can be gained in isolation, or as part of a full First Aid course. Your CPR certificate should ideally be renewed every year, specifically due to the practical component. Some employers may insist on seeing evidence of renewal.
What Will I Learn in my Swimming Teacher Course?
To gain your swimming teacher qualifications you will need to demonstrate a number of practical skills as well as prove your theoretical knowledge.
Whether you are completing the AUSTSWIM or Swim Australia course, or another course, the content is roughly the same.
Prospective teachers need to have a reasonable fitness level and personal swimming ability to pass the required practical tasks. These practical tasks involve a variety of swimming and assessment activities to be carried out in both deep and shallow water, and include:
- survival and rescue skills
- stroke technique
Students are required to plan, deliver and review a series of lessons during the practical sessions.
A number of subjects are covered during the theory sessions, many of which are conducted online. Topics include:
- overview of the aquatic industry
- legal responsibilities
- how children and adults learn
- effective teaching strategies
- principles of movement in water
An online assessment will usually be conducted at the end of the course.
While the different courses tend not to cover more practical work-related issues, such as how to find students or how much you should charge or expect to be paid, you can always ask these questions of your course instructor.
Being your best is not so much about overcoming the barriers other people place in front of you as it is about overcoming the barriers we place in front of ourselves.
~ Kieren Perkins ~
Wouldn't it be wonderful to know you've helped people overcome their barriers when it comes to the water!
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