More than 25 years ago, swimming lessons were a matter of course. But with the abolition of school swimming, municipalities can choose whether they support swimming lessons. There would be a national swimming diploma, which the newly established National Swimming Diploma Council was to implement with Lifeguard Training.
In 1998 the national swimming diploma was given the name, but it is not mandatory for all swimming lessons providers to use this diploma. Moreover, there are various swimming diploma providers in the Netherlands and each swimming lesson provider can decide for itself which diploma it issues. A diploma is no guarantee that a child can swim well.
Almost a quarter of parents think that children do not learn to swim well
Radar conducted a survey about swimming education, which was completed by more than 5800 consumers. 84 percent of the parents did not know that swimming instructors in the Netherlands are not always qualified. In addition, the survey shows that 31 percent of parents who have had a child in swimming lessons are concerned about the quality of the swimming instructor. Almost a quarter of the parents think that their child has not learned to swim well at the swimming location.
Parental dissatisfaction with the child’s swimming quality
One of the disgruntled parents is Mattanja Lootens. She thinks the swimming level of her children after obtaining the A and B diploma is insufficient. ‘We weren’t completely behind that they got a diploma. We noticed this especially when we went swimming in a different pool every now and then. Then my son was picked out and asked if he had a diploma. That is of course annoying for us and for the child.’
70 percent of parents do not know the quality labels for swimming diplomas
The Radar survey also shows that parents are not aware that there are no regulations regarding the requirements for issuing a swimming diploma and diplomas for swimming teachers. 70 percent of the parents are not aware that swimming diplomas do not all have to meet one and the same quality mark.
One of those parents is Martine de Putter: ‘My children do have a diploma. But I can’t say what that means. I was actually under the assumption that it would be centrally arranged. All the same values and that it was simply arranged nationally.’
Swimming trainers see that basic techniques are taught incorrectly
Swimming trainer Willem Elders, who trains children for competitive swimming, often comes across that children have been taught the wrong basic techniques. ‘I have been working with these children every week for at least six months to make them a child without fear of water’, says Elders.
He also indicates that parents often trust that children can swim well after obtaining the swimming diplomas. But swimming with a wrong stroke is not entirely without risk, the swim trainer says: ‘Because you think your child can do it, but she can’t. That is quite a risk. Only one has to drown and that is already one hundred percent too much.’
Giving swimming lessons without a diploma
Radar spoke to an uncertified swimming teacher, who tells her story anonymously, because she is afraid of losing her job. The swimming school where she teaches also did not impose any training requirements on her. She has been standing at the edge of the bath for years, but around her she sees other teachers teaching without a diploma. She questions the quality of the swimming education that is given.
She says: ‘If you look at the quality of the unskilled swimming teachers, the quality is sometimes really too low. New people are very quickly put alone in front of a group. That happened to me too and then I wonder: is that really so smart? For the sake of quality and safety, I think it’s crazy to put someone alone in front of a group. It is a great responsibility to look after eight children and teach them things.’
What do swimming diploma providers think of the current requirements for swimming diplomas?
Every swimming school can issue its own swimming certificate. There are no quality requirements and the vision of a national quality mark for swimming diplomas in the Netherlands differs per provider. Almost every party thinks it is desirable that there are rules that determine the requirements for swimming diplomas, but the way in which this is done differs.
Asked six different swimming diploma providers whether there should be a national quality mark for the swimming diploma, which specifies what the swimming diploma must meet. A minimum quality requirement for both the swimming instructor and the level at which the child swims. The question is whether this should be due to self-regulation by the industry, since the swimming industry is divided about how the requirements should be established, or whether this should be regulated by the government.
The vision of a quality mark for the swimming diploma per provider:
‘In that respect it would be better if there was ultimately support in The Hague to set a number of basic quality requirements for this and to lay them down in law.’
‘Then a government policy officer would first have to delve into the total market and bring everyone under one umbrella without swimming schools being excluded.’
‘We are involved with the swimming industry, that is really all parties that offer something in the field of swimming lessons, making agreements to arrive at a national swimming diploma and that is super important.’
‘In the end I think that the national government, at least a government agency, might have to put a little more effort into this to ensure that things are arranged on that side as well. Of course, we have already tried it in various ways in the industry with reasonable results, but it is still not possible to really get everyone together to ensure that it is really set up nationally.’
‘No, I don’t think that’s necessary. I think the industry can handle that very well on its own. There are players who want to achieve a monopoly position as a result and we have to prevent that in a free market that is the swimming industry.’
NSWZ ‘I think that if there is an external quality mark that will really look at the basics of how lessons are taught, what the starting point will be. That you can work on a basic quality of swimming lessons.’