Although the drowning rate of school-aged children is increasing in Victoria, Australia, some parents find themselves having to pull their children out from swimming lessons. They had to do so due to budget constrains. These cash-strapped parents are already facing difficulties in making ends meet, so they don’t really have much of a choice left. Life Saving Victoria is doing their part in making calls for the State Government to subsidise school swimming lessons.

According to Kevin Pope, the principal of Meadow Heights Primary School, poverty was the key factor in a quarter of his pupils withdrawing out on swimming lessons this year. “Poverty’s a real issue as far as children being able to have access to quality swimming programs, because we don’t get funding for that from the Government. A swimming program that costs $100 a kid, and you’ve got three kids at the school – to come up with $300 is very challenging,” he explained.

As for Roxburgh Homestead Primary School, principal Barb Adam mentioned that the school was seriously contemplating removing swimming as parents are having difficulties in coping with the cost. “We’ve got parents who just can’t afford the money and time to make sure their kids are drown-proof,” she added.

According to Dr Bernadette Matthews, the Life Saving Victoria research and injury prevention manager, children aged between 5 to 14 were the state’s only age group where drownings have increased. In all, the drowning rate has increased to almost 70 per cent as compared with the first half of the decade. Stuart Teather, the spokesman for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, stated that swimming lessons were part of the curriculum but up to each school to implement.

Starting a child’s swimming lessons from a young age is an advantage as it can be seen from Jack Simpson. The five-year-old managed to drag his three-year-old brother to safety in a backyard pool on December 8 after picking up lifesaving skills just days before. Jack put his skills to good use after he realised his brother struggling upon jumping into the deep end of the pool without his floats. “You never think it would happen. Jack jumped in and then Darcy went to jump in, and I yelled, ‘You don’t have your floaties on,’ but . . . he was already in the deep end. It just happened so fast. He just grabbed him and dragged him,” recalled Brooke, their mother. For the full story, do read it here.

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