Pool safety guidelines for babies and tots launched

National guidelines for the safety of babies and toddlers during swimming lessons were launched at Parliament yesterday

Swimming pool

National guidelines for the safety of babies and toddlers during swimming lessons were launched at Parliament yesterday.

Over the last two years, the British Standards Institution, Water Babies, Splash About and the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) have collaborated to produce these guidelines to ensure the safety and comfort of little ones under the age of four during swimming lessons..

As a result of the new guidelines, within the next year the ASA will also be developing accreditation to mark out safe, competent, well-run swimming organisations for mums to look out for when choosing a swim school for their children. Here's a simple summary of what to look out for:

Training

Teachers should have an industry-recognised swimming qualification specific to teaching babies and toddlers. There should also be a trained lifesaver and first aid member of staff available at all times throughout the class.

Safeguarding

All employees who work directly with children should have undertaken relevant criminal records checks, have attended a Safeguarding Children in Sport course and have been trained in its swim school's safeguarding policies and procedures.

Health and hygiene

All children under four should wear a double-nappy system for their swim class – a disposable or reusable swim nappy, with a snug-fitting neoprene nappy on top with close-fitting legs and waist ribs.

Temperature

Pools should be heated to at least 32 degrees for children up to three months old, 30 degrees for children 3-12 months, up to a maximum of 35 degrees.

Pool safety

Swim schools should monitor pool conditions closely to ensure its venues are maintained safely and efficiently. They should carry out risk assessments at each pool to ensure they operate to the highest health and safety standards.

Insurance

Swim schools should be fully insured, with both Public Liability insurance and professional indemnity protection to £10 million.

Steve Franks, managing director at Water Babies, said: "we're calling for people to be properly insured and qualified and the environment in which lessons take place to be safe and appropriate."

"We're dealing with babies who are very vulnerable in their early stages of development. You're developing life skills. You've got to have the skills to deliver that, and there's an incredible sense of responsibility and privilege when delivering that kind of activity to new mums and new families."

Jon Glenn, Head of Learn to Swim at the ASA, said he hopes the guidelines and forthcoming accreditation will make it easier for mums to find quality swimming sessions for their babies and toddlers.

"By this time next year it will be in place, look for that quality assurance ASA 'stamp' saying this provider is meeting all the basic standards – their staff are qualified, the water temperatures are kept right and they're using double nappies," he said. "We are challenging industry organisations to provide a proper environment for children to learn to swim."

Until the guidelines come in, added Glenn, don't be afraid to ask about the qualifications of staff and safeguards in place to protect your child.

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