In at the deep end

In at the deep end

Swimming has long been dubbed the wonder sport - for the ultimate fitness and exercise regime, jumping in the pool can ensure that you firm up, lose weight, and stay trim.

And as a sport that is accessible to all ages and abilities, for those who are both able-bodied and disabled, a new initiative is now looking into how swimming can be made safer and how a minimum standard of quality teaching can be ensured.

The Register of Aquatic Professionals (RAPs) recently launched a pilot phase, which by ensuring staff are up to the required professional level, will help protect the public and make sure the levels of safety at swimming pools remains high. With primary school children among those who call on the services of swimming teachers, RAPs will be an important part of the skills infrastructure. It has stated the importance of fully qualified staff in teaching young people to swim.

This initiative comes as Prince William voices support for a campaign by the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) which calls for every child to be given the opportunity to learn to swim. ASA highlighted in a recent report that half of children aged seven to eleven can’t swim the length of a typical swimming pool (25 metres) unaided, despite swimming being a compulsory element of the national curriculum.

It is hoped that the initiative will see an increase in qualified professional swimming instructors, to help get people in the pool, learning, or developing their swimming, while safe in their environment.

RAPs has been developed by SkillsActive with key members of the aquatics industry, including the ASA as well as the Swimming Teachers Association (STA) and Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS).

All members of RAPs will be required to complete annual Continued Professional Development (CPD) to ensure their skills remain in line with industry standards, which will be tracked.

The initiative will give more people confidence in taking the plunge with swimming, whether they are beginners, or if they are leaving their children in the hands of a teacher. Knowing that safety is of paramount importance and the industry level is high, confidence can be placed in more and more qualified swimming teachers.

Also, with a high standard being set, anyone who chooses to pay for private swimming lessons will know they are getting the best teaching for their money, and that their fitness and technique will be improved.

The scheme has been heralded the first major initiative directly relating to the Olympic and Paralympic legacy following the London 2012 Games last summer.

Parents will have the peace of mind that anyone with RAPs membership will have the necessary skills to teach their children to swim.

Ian Taylor, CEO of SkillsActive, the Sector Skills Council for Active Leisure, Learning and Well-being, which operates RAPs, said: “The Register compliments our efforts to ensure that children in particular have the best start in life that can develop into a healthy lifestyle. Those who use the services of a RAPs swimming teacher or other aquatic professional in Somerset can now be assured that they have the right training and qualifications.

“We now have a transparent structure that will help make swimming safer and also enable workers in the industry to progress rapidly. The rate of growth and standard of quality this will provide is exciting. In turn, this will motivate the public in looking to get healthy and participate in aquatics.”

So if knowing that you’re in safe hands isn’t quite enough for you to dig out your swimmers – here are some brilliant reasons why you should get dive in and get wet.

·         Indiana University Bloomington's Counsilman Centre for the Science of Swimming undertook research which discovered that regular laps of the pool may be the answer to prolonging youth

·         Swimming is one of the safest sports in terms of risks in suffering a sports injury – due mainly to the slow speed, lack of physical contact and supportive environment.

·         Swimming provides an amazing aerobic workout for the whole body – and is one of the best ways to improve the strength endurance of the muscles in the shoulders and back

·         If you’re feeling a bit blue, swimming can change the brain for the better through a process known as hippocampal neurogenesis. This is when the brain replaces cells lost through stress. Just 30 minutes of breaststroke swimming three times a week could burn 900 calories – reducing the risk of contracting type 2 diabetes by more than 10 per cent

·         Who doesn’t think about beautiful blue seas, and crystal clear swimming pools while on a holiday in sunny climes? If you can swim, you’d be mad not to jump in when you’re taking a break.

With more qualified swimming teachers in our local pools, more of us can be confident of safety, and concentrate on getting fit and staying happy.

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