Drop in water safety skills causing concern

File photo.

Water Safety New Zealand has serious concerns about a lag in vital water safety skills in New Zealand primary school children.

Student achievement across 27 skills of Water Skills For Life is recorded in a national database and an analysis of the 1.7 million records has identified low levels of achievement across a number of floating and propulsion skills, including floating on your back for one minute and sculling for at least three minutes.

To rectify this essential water safety competence a combined effort is underway with partners Swimming New Zealand and The Warehouse to get Water Skills for Life, the national standard for aquatic education for children in years 1 – 8 needs taught in every primary school across the country.

CEO Jonty Mills says these water safety skills are crucial for survival.

“In 2017 accidental immersion incidents (where people ended up in the water when they had no intention of doing so) was the deadliest activity in terms of preventable fatal drownings.

“To survive an accidental fall into the water personal buoyancy and propulsion are essential to get out of trouble.”

The latest data from WSNZ’s Drownbase shows in 2017 15 – 24 year olds were the largest group of fatalities (alongside 65+) with 16 preventable* fatalities.

A third of these were female (the highest female toll in that age group since 1983) and swimming was the prevalent activity.

“This suggests too many children are going into their teenage years without the necessary skills needed to stay safe in the water, to assess risk and make smart decisions.”

WSNZ’s 2018 Attitudes & Behaviour survey revealed a third of people in New Zealand experienced a serious situation in the water, and continue to underestimate the danger posed by our waterways. Drowning is the leading cause of recreational death, the second highest cause of death for 1 – 24 year olds and the third highest cause of accidental death.

New Zealand’s drowning rate per capita is twice that of Australia and four times that of the UK.

Water Safety New Zealand believes aquatic education through Water Skills for Life is the best way to turn around our drowning problem.

“The programme was developed off the back of international research, best practice and water safety sector expertise.

“Water Skills for Life supported by The Warehouse provides our children with valuable lifesaving skills for the real world so they can navigate New Zealand’s waterways safely. “

*Preventable drowning fatalities are those where water safety sector intervention could have had an influence (for example where the victim was boating, swimming, diving) while non-preventable include events such as suicides, homicides and vehicle accidents (where water safety education and activity would not have prevented the death).

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