Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Is it ignorance? Or poor promotion?

The Ottawa Citizen has an article today coming out of a school board committee meeting Monday night, where a trustee expresses a desire to have every student be exposed to swimming lessons through school before Grade 3. Admirable goal.
Some schools already offer students a chance to take swimming lessons, but (Zone 11 trustee Riley) Brockington says the program should be implemented across the board.
“We should agree that this is a critical life skill that all students should have, and, if we agree that’s the case, then the board should be providing any funds to cover the cost,” Brockington said, adding the program would be of particular benefit to many new Canadians who don’t know how to swim.
This could be happening today in all Ottawa schools, so it's surprising to me that this trustee, and this board, doesn't know that. It's called the Swim to Survive school grant program and it's been around for three or four years. The program centers on doing a forward roll (disorienting entry), treading water for one minute and then swimming 50 metres or yards without stopping. As most drownings occur within 50 metres of a point of safety, the underlying principle is that someone falling into water unexpectedly can right themselves, break the surface of the water, tread water long enough to find the closest point of safety and then be able to swim there.
Full disclosure: I am a lifeguard and swimming instructor, and when in Woodstock work part-time at the Woodstock YMCA. As such, we have taught well over 1,000 Grade 2-4 students from area schools as part of the Swim to Survive program over the past four or five years. It's become my absolute favourite program to teach.
The grant program provides funding (from the Ministry of Education, but flowing through the Lifesaving Society) to school boards to help get their Grade 3 students to area swimming pools during school hours for three hours of swimming lessons. School boards must apply for the grants and in the application show they've partnered with a local swimming pool (municipal, non-profit, YMCA, private, etc.) to work out a fee structure. In many boards, the grants cover the cost of busing to the facility-- which was the cost that caused swimming to be dropped from the roster at many schools.
Three hours doesn't teach a non-swimmer everything s/he needs to know to swim and survive, but it makes a huge difference for those children who would never take formal swimming lessons. Even having a better idea of what they're comfortable doing in and around the water makes a critical difference.
First surprise was already listed above-- that the trustee wasn't aware of this program (especially since I highly suspect there are schools in the board that already receive the StS grant). As you can see from the comment below, Brockington is aware of the program and wants to see it in every school. Second surprise was that the journalist, who took the time to look up the statistics and information from the Lifesaving Society, didn't keep clicking to learn about this program.
To be fair in my final point, it's also the society's issue. This past year the organization held its AGM in Tillsonburg, which is in the southeastern part of the Thames Valley District / London Catholic District school boards' area. Those two boards were the only ones to send 100% of their eligible students to a Swim to Survive swimming lesson in 2009. They even were awarded the Swim to Survive award (page 16) in recognition, yet no one at the society thought to invite someone from the boards to receive the award as it held its own annual meeting in that very district.


Riley Brockington said...

Why would you imply that I dont know what is offered in Ottawa schools, when I clearly do and my motion indicates that. Some schools offer the program, I want to make it universal.

You imply I dont know what the facts are. Who is the one that didnt investigate before blogging?

Education Reporter said...

Trustee Brockinton:
Touche. I relied solely on the Ottawa Citizen's article and didn't go looking for your motion or any other available record of the meeting.

I've amended the post above to reflect your comments.

All of which only makes the journalists at the Citizen look a little worse-- if you mentioned Swim to Survive in your comments and motion, why would this be omitted from the article?

One of my original question remains however-- why hasn't the board applied for funds for 100% of its schools? Your motion attempts to find a solution to that question.