No Swimming Allowed in Phonics Pools: Comment

By Gibson, Stephanie | Times Educational Supplement, October 26, 2012 | Go to article overview

No Swimming Allowed in Phonics Pools: Comment


Gibson, Stephanie, Times Educational Supplement


I'll teach you the essentials but you can't dive in, says primary headteacher Stephanie Gibson.

Come with me, small child. Take my hand, and look over there, into the distance. You probably cannot see it very well, as you are small, but let me tell you about what is there. It is called a swimming pool. Can you see the myriad shades of blue and green dancing on the surface like jewels?

In a swimming pool, you can practise your swimming - a useful life skill that's also good exercise and lots of fun. You can learn to dive. You can jump in with a splash or play games. You can learn about how others swim. I hope this sounds tempting and something you would like to do?

Unfortunately, though, small child, I cannot allow you into the swimming pool until you have convinced me that you can swim. You will have to rely on my descriptions of what it will be like when you can swim, and these must sustain you as you learn.

There are many skills involved in swimming, and they are all important. You need to be able to use your arms and your legs. You need to have a streamlined body shape to help you speed through the water. You need to be able to put your face into the water and lift it when you breathe.

There are a number of different strokes, and people usually find that they are better at some than at others. They choose a stroke that makes the best use of their own strengths.

Some children learn to swim very easily. Some find it very difficult. There have always been arguments about the best way to teach children to swim. Arms first, or legs? Whole class or one-to-one? The pendulum swings back and forth as the experts decide first on one way and then another.

It has now been decided that one of these skills must be learned first and on its own and that you and all other small children must gain mastery of it before you are allowed to learn any of the others. This will be the law. It is my job to teach you. Let me tell you what we will do.

I shall be teaching you to breathe correctly. Since I cannot allow you to enter the swimming pool until I know you can swim, I shall use cotton wool instead. And as you learn about breathing through cotton wool, I shall allow you to stand on a little bit of cotton wool too, as I'm sure this will be good practice for you - but you will only be allowed to stand on the same width that you can already breathe through. …

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