LEN Learn to Swim Commission Report released – Major Conference planned for the summer of 2023

The LEN Learn to Swim Commission has published its first report sharing the results of a major consultation process into the issue of Learn to Swim and prevention of drowning.
Since February 2022, the LEN Learn to Swim Commission has built on the work of the previous Learn to Swim Prevention of Drowning Project.  The goal for LEN is to work with stakeholders to raise awareness of the issue, and to increase the number of Europeans able to swim safely and to prevent drownings.
As part of LEN’s effort to establish a common approach and to co-ordinate efforts with other stakeholders, LEN President Antonio Silva met the General Secretary of the International Life Saving Federation, Harald Vervaeck, in Leuven, Belgium earlier today.
The members of the LEN Learn to Swim Commission are:

  • Boro Strumbelj, Co-Chair (Slovenia)
  • Mary McMorrow, Co-Chair (Ireland)
  • Aldo Matos Da Costa (Portugal)
  • Laurent Ciubini (France)
  • Cato Bratbakk (Norway)
  • Jose Luis Hidalgo (Spain)
  • Aivars Platonovs (Latvia)

The Bureau Liaison is Rókur í Jákupsstovu and the Commission is supported by LEN staff member Farouk Benjeddi.
The Report updated the Bureau and member federations on work done to date, including an overview of the results of a comprehensive survey and sets out the ambitions of the Commission for 2023.
The Commission met formally on 7 occasions, the first meeting taking place in person in Cascais at the 2022 Extraordinary Congress. Subsequent meetings took place online, with another physical meeting taking place in Antalya during the recent LEN Congress.
The primary focus was on developing and issuing a comprehensive survey which was issued to our 52 federations in September 2022. The Survey closed on 3 October and was responded to by 44 federations indicating the level of interest in LTS across our federations. An additional 7 federations provided data after the survey closed. 
With 51 of the 52 LEN federations responding to the survey we can conclude that LTS is an important strategic consideration for member federations. 
The Survey sought to help us understand how LTS programmes are being delivered and to what extent federations or governments are involved in programme delivery. Key figures to emerge in this area are:

  • 19 countries have a government led LTS programme and only 16 federations have their own LTS programme.
  • 24 countries have a school led system but only it is mandatory on the school curriculum in only 18 countries.
  • 12 countries have programmes running outside of school.
  • There are relatively small numbers of LTS for Babies (10) or adults (6).

When it comes to monitoring standards 25 federations reported that there is no monitoring of LTS programme delivery.
In looking at the school curriculum, 80% of countries have swimming on the curriculum but it is only mandatory in 41% of countries.
The survey also tried to identify the common challenges and barriers for LTS in member federations. Most common barriers were:

  • Lack of swim teachers – 32 federations rated this as being moderately to very important.
  • 22 federations answered that they probably, or definitely, do not have enough indoor facilities, with only 6 federations saying they definitely had enough.
  • Funding was another barrier that was identified with 29 countries answering that the high cost was moderately to very important.

After careful study of the survey results, the LTS Commission has developed a roadmap for the future based on four key pillars:

  1. Promotion
  2. Programmes
  3. Standards
  4. Knowledge. 

The priority action for 2023 is to agree a common definition of swimming and water safety competence.

A Working Group has been tasked with developing definitions and a recommended pedagogical approach to achieving the defined competencies.

The proposed model will be presented at a Conference of interested stakeholders for discussion and approval, which is scheduled to take place in the summer of 2023.

An abstract proposal has been accepted to run under an Invited Symposium at this year’s Annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science (ECSS) to be held in Paris from 4th to 7th July, and will be presented during the invited symposia entitled “Swimming education in Europe: State of research towards aquatic literacy” on Friday, 7th July.

LEN President Antonio Silva and Ils Harald Vervaeck

LEN President Antonio Silva said:

“One of the most important strategic goals of LEN is to set up a robust and sustainable Learn to Swim programme, working closely with our federation partners and other stakeholders. There is much work to be done but the survey has given us a great insight into the challenges of learning to swim across Europe. We know the barriers that we face, and we look forward to working together to break down those barriers.
“Our combined efforts will not only reduce drownings but nurture our future talent and improve the opportunities for our children to learn the life skill that is swimming. “