The number of kids learning to swim in the ACT has fallen by up to 1,000 participants, prompting safety concerns as summer approaches.
The Royal Life Saving Society said some in-school programs have seen participation rates fall over last two years, and out of school programs have not picked up the slack.
Royal Life Saving ACT executive director Cherry Bailey said the number of Canberra children learning to swim has fallen since 2015.
“We are a little bit concerned that the participation rate is not what it used to be, and that’s across the board for students of all ages, but particularly in primary schools,” she said.
Ms Bailey said swimming lessons were often overlooked as busy families try to fit in time for other hobbies and sports.
“We’re really asking the question, ‘Is that instilling a life skill, or is that something that’s just going to be enjoyable after school?’,” she said.
“We really want to make sure that children are being enrolled in these programs at a young age, so as they’re graduating through their childhood and into adolescence, and into a more explorative and adventurous lifestyle with less supervision … they’re going to be safe in those environments.”
Concerns cost too much for families with multiple children
Ms Bailey said parents have been concerned about the cost of providing swimming lessons to their children.
“The financial burden is one of the major barriers, especially if you’ve got a family of more than just a single child,” she said.
Ms Bailey has called for more funding to make learn-to-swim programs accessible across different age groups.
“The Education Department generously supports the AquaSafe program, which is dedicated to year two students,” she said.
“The fees are set at a flat rate of $50 for families, and the Government subsidises the rest.