There has been a change in the swimming program from the NASSA program to the SwimSafer program as reported in the media in mid March 2010. I had just attended the pioneer Swimsafer Instructor course and wish to share with you more details on the new program and how it will affect your child.
Swimsafer is a new program that will be officially launched in July 2010. There are 6 stages. Stages 1 to 3 are plainly known as Stage 1, Stage 2 and stage 3 respectively. However for stage 4, it is also known as Bronze; stage 5 (Silver); and stage 6 (Gold). Although there are also Bronze, Silver and Gold awards in the NASSA program, it should not be mixed up with those belonging to SwimSafer. The programs are totally different.
The emphasis for the SwimSafer program will be more on a good stroke, personal survival, basic lifesaving skills and most importantly, safety. The current NASSA program does touch on safety and basic survival techniques however, there is not much emphasis on strokes and lifesaving. A number of you will probably have seen some children with “not so beautiful” strokes passing the NASSA test. A good stroke is not a criterion. The child just requires mainly lots of strength and endurance to pass the NASSA test.
I strongly welcome this greater emphasis on a good stroke and it is in line with my teachings. Thus, for my beginner classes, there will not be many changes in my lesson plans. For SwimSafer program, the maximum class ratio is 10 students to 1 instructor thus my intermediate class and above will be capped at 10 instead of the current 12. For beginner class, there will be no change and the cap will still be at 8. Beside this, there will be 2 more significant changes to my teaching style to prepare my students for the SwimSafer tests.
Firstly, I will introduce more variety of strokes to my students earlier on in their learning journey. Currently, I am training the students on a single stroke first, eg. Free style (Front Crawl) till they are able to perform a 50m swim reasonably nice before teaching them a new one. This change is due to the requirement that the students will be tested on short distances of different strokes such as breaststroke, Front crawl, backstroke and survival backstroke quite early in the stages. (A copy of the test items is attached) However, please do not worry that your child will be overloaded. The distance required is very short such as 10m to 25m per stroke in the early stages. The strokes do not have to be perfect at this point in time. The Swimsafer is a progressive test program. It is only when they reach stage 6 (Gold) then they are expected to do a very good stroke.
The second significant change will be the introduction of more life-saving training. Currently, the use of PFD (personal flotation device such as life jacket) is introduced in the NASSA Goldstar test. However, there is an emphasis now to teach the children how to be safe doing a water-based activity and how to save lives without endangering themselves. Thus, PFD are introduced during stage 1 of the SwimSafer program. The students will be taught how to save others such as by throwing an aid to the distressed and other basic rescue techniques. This will make the lesson more interesting and teach the children to be safe. I can guarantee you that most children will find this part of the lesson quite fun.
Now I will try to answer some of the questions that are on the mind of the parents, especially those who have children who had passed some of the NASSA tests.
1) Is the NASSA test certificate still valid and recognised?
Yes! The certifications are still valid and recognized. They are a mark of the achievements that your children had performed previously.
2) What will happen to my child who is now in the midst of preparing for the NASSA test?
For those children who should be able to pass the NASSA test by June 2010, I will try my best to push them for the test by then. After that, they will switch over to the new SwimSafer program. They do not have to start all over again from stage 1 of the SwimSafer program. I will assess them and put them in the suitable stages. However, if you feel that you will not like your child to continue with the NASSA test, please let me know and I will start preparing them for the new SwimSafer program. For those children who might not be able to pass the NASSA test by June 2010, I will start to prepare them for the SwimSafer program instead. The NASSA program will be phased out by June 2010. Only students taking GoldStar award will be allowed a longer training time till end of 2010.
3) Is the SwimSafer program tougher as compared to the NASSA test?
In term of endurance, the NASSA test requires much more endurance and strength. The longest distance that the children need to swim under NASSA Goldstar Award is 1.5km under 45mins. In SwimSafer, the longest distance is 400m in the highest award which is the Swimsafer Gold award. There are also no timings at all in term of speed swimming for SwimSafer. As mentioned previously, the emphasis is on good stroke and not fast swimming at this moment. There will be other aspects of Swimsafer that might be more difficult than NASSA. For eg, the children will need to learn sculling, somersaults in the water and diving which might be difficult for some of them.
4) How long will the whole SwimSafer program take?
There are 6 stages in the SwimSafer program. The official guide is that it will take a minimum of 3 months for each stage. The authorities had stressed that it is a guide and they also understand that every child progress at a different speed thus please do not worry if your child takes a longer time. In my personal opinion, I feel that it might take longer time for each stage especially for the later stages. The program also uses an assumption that the student begins stage 1 at 6 years old when doing an estimation of the progression time. This does not mean that younger children cannot learn swimming. They can still take the test if they can meet the test criteria before they reach 6 years old. However, their rate of progress will naturally be slower. For my students who are still toddlers and pre-school around age 3 to 5, they will still have mainly the same curriculum as they still need to work on their foundations. However, I will introduce backstroke and use of PFD earlier.
5) How is the test conducted?
The test will be conducted by another SwimSafer certified instructor who is not coaching the child taking the test. Booking of the test is through the instructor. Details are still being worked out and should be out hopefully by May. In my personal opinion, I feel that the program is trying to simulate a more fun environment in learning swimming and learning about safety; and the tests are just to mark milestones in the child’s progression. It is not to be as stressful as the NASSA test environment.
There might be changes to the SwimSafer program in the future. As this is a new program, feedback will be gathered on it and changes might be made to improve the program. Thus, all the answers and information that I have given you so far are true and valid to the best of my knowledge at this point in time. Information in this letter is gathered from the SwimSafer Instructor course and SSC website. I will update you in the future if there are any further changes. You can also feel free to approach me if you have any more queries.
* Information on exact test items has been prepared but will not be uploaded at the moment as it has not been publicly posted anywhere yet. I also wish to provide this information to my students’ parents first before posting it publicly. I will do so by end of this week or early next week. For parents who could not wait, please feel free to pm me or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org