Noah Graham, 6, and Sophia Mitchell, 7, jump for joy at the news. Picture: Steve Pohlner/AAP
Noah Graham, 6, and Sophia Mitchell, 7, jump for joy at the news. Picture: Steve Pohlner/AAP

State comes to kids’ rescue after SOS call

ALL state primary students will be taught vital swimming and survival skills as part of an Australian-first program to start in schools next year, after a News Queensland campaign.

The new State Government initiative, to be announced by Education Minister Grace Grace today, comes after the powerful Save Our Schoolkids (SOS) campaign, which revealed a stark decline in swimming ability.

Under the plan to make Queensland the "Water Safe State", students at all state primary schools would now have a water safety and/or learn to swim program from 2019.

The Queensland Government will commit $3.68 million annually - an increase of $2.18 million per year - to expand swim programs, which will comply with national standards set by the Australian Water Safety Council.

Principals in remote locations will be given funding to fly in external providers including lifesavers for intensive programs.

Teachers will also be upskilled so that water safety lessons can be taught in classrooms as well as pools.

All schools will be audited as part of the program, to see where improvements need to be made.

The SOS campaign was sparked by warning from experts about a generation of kids who couldn't swim to save themselves.

Noah Graham, 6, and Sophia Mitchell, 7, jump for joy at the news. Picture: Steve Pohlner/AAP
Noah Graham, 6, and Sophia Mitchell, 7, jump for joy at the news. Picture: Steve Pohlner/AAP

Within days of News Queensland's expose, Education Minister Grace Grace ordered a series of roundtable meetings that brought together key groups, including Surf Life Saving Queensland, Royal Lifesaving, AUSTSWIM, P&Cs QLD and government representatives.

Following the final meeting yesterday, Ms Grace said the government would commit to additional funding.

"We know that swimming and water sports are an integral part of Queensland life, and we want to ensure that our children are able to play and swim safely.

"Our commitment of additional funding has been informed by the highly-regarded experts on the roundtable."

Ms Grace said all Water Safety Roundtable representatives would sign a pledge, signalling the unique community partnership approach required to address water safety and education.

Surf Life Saving Queensland CEO John Brennan welcomed the new plan, which he said would deliver vital skills even to the most remote children.

Mr Brennan said principals in remote locations would be given funding to fly in external providers for intensive programs that had classroom and practical elements.

He said there was also provision to upskill teachers, so they could instruct students.

"We've always known Queensland as the Sunshine State and now we are clearly on the map as the Water Safe State," Mr Brennan said.

"This is a first because groups that had been working in isolation were brought together to create something special.

"I thank the Minister for bringing all key stakeholders together to develop some real solutions to improve water safety for all Queensland children."

Mr Brennan said principals would be given more financial support for lessons and, importantly, there would be a better audit process to identify students falling between the cracks.

Education Minister Grace Grace with Surf Life Saving Queensland chief John Brennan
Education Minister Grace Grace with Surf Life Saving Queensland chief John Brennan

Other key outcomes of the Water Safety Roundtable include:

- A statement of expectations where all state schools will provide all students with safe, positive and engaging water safety and learn to swim programs;

- A new $150,000 swimming and water safety grant funding program, so schools can apply for additional funds to support their swimming and/or water safety program;

- The Queensland Water Safety Action Statement - a plan to ensure every Queenslander has the information and support needed to be safe in and around the water

- And a water safety and swimming education program for Prep to Year 10 students - in line with the National Swimming and Water Safety Framework and Australian Curriculum.

The Courier-Mail led the SOS campaign which was backed by 45 other News Queensland publications, a range of swimming industry leaders, legendary coach Laurie Lawrence and swimming champions Emily Seebohm, Cate and Bronte Campbell, Brooke Hanson and Libby Trickett.

Earlier this month the push for improved swimming education in primary schools won support from the Federal Government, which stepped in to help address a deadly decline in water safety skills.

The government unveiled Sport 2030, a blueprint to "reshape the face of Australian sport and build a healthier, more physically active nation''.

It did not discuss funding, but said: "The Australian Government will work with state and territory Education Ministers to ensure that all children have access to a learn to swim program in primary school.''


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