At the climax of Day 2 of the historic Learn to Swim Conference in Jurmala, Latvia, European Aquatics announced plans to roll out a 2-year pilot project as the next step of its Learn to Swim (LTS) strategy.
At least three European member federations who have highly-developed, developed and developing learn to swim programmes will be approached to work with European Aquatics to:
- Evaluate and collect relevant information on a database
- Allow sharing of best practices and challenges
- Produce a LTS Manual and certification system
- Raise public and political awareness on the topic
- Communicate the framework and results to stakeholders and the public
European Aquatics President Antonio Silva said: “We are aware of the challenges of having so many differences within Europe, and it’s important to stress that we are just the start of a long journey.
“But with around 15 per cent of Europe’s population under the age of 14 and many countries having no established systems at the moment, European Aquatics has a great opportunity to build a sustainable system. As this conference has shown, there is a wealth of knowledge and experience in our national federations. By working together, we can ensure more people are taught to swim and feel safe in the water.”
Day 2 of the Learn to Swim Conference also gave the delegates more opportunities for networking and knowledge sharing as well as the chance to engage on two key topics: how to break down cultural and social barriers about learning to swim, and how do we ensure we are able to imbed learn to swim programmes in national school programmes, where the impact is colossal.
First up was Summaya Mughal, a Senior BBC TV/Radio Presenter and Journalist, who confronted cultural barriers by learning how to swim at the age of 28 in 2022, taking on this challenge in recognition of the number of South Asian women who are unable to swim.
Her explanation of her journey, which led to an award-winning podcast ‘Brown Gal Can’t Swim,’ where she shares her experience with the wider public, was emotional and engaging, and underlined how important it is to find ways to encourage more adults, and those from currently excluded communities, the chance to learn to swim.
Another excellent presentation saw Andreas Schleicher, the Director for Education and Skills, and Special Advisor on Education Policy at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris, show data, and convincing arguments, why sport and physical exercise not only contributes to the physical and mental well-being of schoolchildren but has a direct, positive impact on their academic performance.
As was stressed on the first day by the athlete guests, the skills acquired from mastering exercise are also life skills – promoting self-confidence, resilience, discipline, time management and teamwork.
The final panel discussion of the conference saw representatives from the federations of England, Wales and Scotland (UK development), Hungary, Sweden, Estonia and Slovenia share experiences, challenges and learnings from their own national learn to swim programmes.
Despite differences of resources, history and culture, it was clear that many of the basic principles were the same and that a unified approach to Learn to Swim in Europe was the correct strategy.
This pioneering event which brought together member federations, academics, swim teachers, and aquatic professionals to share knowledge and best practices could not have taken place without the hard work and dedication of the Latvian Swimming Federation and the European Aquatics Learn to Swim Commission and staff.