Swim school defend their technique after they were criticised for putting children in traumatic situations.

Swim school owner, Rachelle Beesley, says her techniques are safe and focus on teaching the skills needed to avoid drowning.

“Most children cry but that is no different to traditional swimming lessons,” she told ABC news.

“Just because a child cries, it’s not because they’re getting abused, it’s because they’re being pushed out of their comfort zone.”

For Ms Beesley, lessons are about teaching children to be able to survive if they find themselves in danger without a floatation device or supervision.

“Our program is designed to give skill and competency, not a false sense of security because they’re in the water with a parent holding them,” she said.

“That’s not a realistic scenario [of] how children drown.”

Concerns raised

This week a¬†Wollongong resident complained about the hours of “crying, screaming and gagging” sounds coming from a nearby pool owned by a franchisee of Ms Beesley’s swim school.

The complaint has raised questions over the style of teaching and whether it is harmful.

Ms Beesley said once children learnt the skills required, they calmed down and enjoyed their time in the water.

“Most swimming lessons for young children are water awareness or water familiarisation where a parent gets in the water with a child, does exploration, plays games and sings songs, but it doesn’t give them any skill or competency in the water,” Ms Beesley said.

“It’s not teaching the child to become the aquatic problem-solver, and most kids who are drowning are under four.

“They’re the kids that need to be taught not just how to sing a nursery rhyme in the water, but how to become skilled and competent.

“It targets children most at risk of drowning by giving them skills where, if an accident was to happen, they can save themselves.”

Ms Beesley said parents of her students had been criticised over the years for choosing her style of teaching.

“The stigma comes from other swim school operators or people who don’t have education about what we do,” she said.

“Some of our mums and dads get called child abusers, which is a horrible thing when they’re trying to give their child a skill to save their life.
“[Criticism] comes from people who haven’t been to a lesson or watched a lesson.”

She said her technique did not simulate drowning scenarios, but did involve rolling a child into the water fully clothed as part of their final test.

“Drowning is the number one cause of accidental death for children under four and for every child that does drown, there are many more who are permanently disabled for the rest of their life,” Ms Beesley said.

Drowning statistics: July 2015-2016

  • 280 people drowned in Australian waterways
  • 83 per cent of drownings were male, 17 per cent were female
  • New South Wales recorded the highest number of drowning deaths with 96
  • The most drowning deaths occurred in January
  • 21 children aged between 0-4 years drowned in Australian waterways

Source: Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report 2016

Do you agree with the technique this swim school uses?

Share your comments below.

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  • i wouldn’t go there but it is my choice. i wouldn’t put my kids in that situation. there are other ways


  • Just go where you feel comfortable.


  • It’s up to the parents how their child learns to swim. If they are confident in the instructor and their child is enjoying themselves and not getting hurt then that’s the important part. Not what anyone else thinks of it. I wish people would stop trying to take all rights away from parents.


  • I only like swimming lessons the children can enjoy. Mine are all capable swimmers with no fear of the water. If they learn fear, they will never be good swimmers.


  • As a swim instructor for 20 yrs I have taught many different types of programs. In my experience, water familiarisation and teaching young children NOT to go near water without an adult…and educating parents and caregivers how to keep kids safe around water…if a lot more effective than attempting to “drown-proof” young children. For many kids, this type of teaching develops phobias and it has been my experience that it places a false sense of security in the parents. Teaching kids in line with physical, mental and emotional development is a lot more effective in keeping them safe in water and developing swimming skills. I have found that the “Kids Alive Do The 5″ water safety program is an excellent tool for all kids, parents and caregivers (including child-care centres, pre-schools and schools) and the Austswim method of swim instruction as the best format in terms of short and long-term outcomes for kids.


  • I had my son on an intensive swimming course when he was 4 and he was pushed out of his comfort zone and under the water time after time. Half way the course he didn’t want to go swimming anymore and the whole experience caused he didn’t want to swim for many years. We tried to put him on very low key swimming lessons when he was 5 and he would literally become sick and start vomiting and cried and cried and cried. Such waste of an expensive swimming course and such waste of many years he could have taught to be water safe and have fun but wasn’t !
    I’m not for any technique which uses force.


  • not really sure what her swim school techniques are – couldn’t really gauge that from the article – maybe I missed it?

    I personally wouldn’t put my children through a swim lesson where they screamed and cried for the entire thing as it would be too stressful for me as their mum to watch and not do anything.

    My girls aged 9 and 6 have done swimming lessons for their entire lives – only stopping when the swim school shuts down completely for christmas – they even do it during the school holiday programs offered by our swim school. My girls learnt with the nursey rhymes and cute and fun things from the ages of 6mths of age – the 9 year old has completed all her lessons and is now deemed as competent. The 6 year old has a few years to go yet but each lesson they have/had they did it with smiles on their faces, learnt something new each lesson and worked on something they had to master each lesson. My girls never once didn’t want to go to swimming lessons except for during winter they don’t really like it but they do it because they know that I wont let them stop until I know /and have seen them swim with confidence and skill to save themselves.


  • Ways of teaching children has changed over the years and swim schools are different in their methods. As long as the parents trust the method and no harm comes to the child then it is ok. My oldest at 5 months loved nothing then floating around in his paddling pool with a swim ring. The ring was to give him independence and to help him sit up in the water. the next year going into the same pool he freaked out. My other children have learnt to swim in creeks or flat water.


  • This swim school sounds like they’re doing the right thing. Personally I don’t see the point in babying kids with nursery rhymes and such- I’ve seen this and I think it’s a waste of time and money. At lease this swim school is teaching a child what to do if they fall into a pool.


  • Quite simply, if you’re not happy with the technique, change swim schools. My son learnt to swim over time across 3 different swim schools, all very different. It needs to be what feels right for you.


  • The technique does seem a little strange.


  • a child will never drown if they are too petrified to go near it


  • A little one has to have a few lessons to learn to kick and do strokes with their arms. After awhile it’s ok to put them in the water without being held but you don’t toss them in. Some babies and toddlers cry during lessons even when their parents are holding them securely. Some get cold in heated pools. With boys try putting a one piece rashie over their bathers. You could do the same with girls too. I have seen one girl wearing a rashie top over her bathers.


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