Bringing pools to schools to improve water safety skills
Lack of access to a pool can mean that some kids don’t ever have the chance to learn to swim. A unique program in New Zealand is tackling this issue in an unusual way.
Instead of taking kids to the pool, the Pools iN SchoolZ program brings the pool to the kids. Run by the Adam Brown Water Safety Trust, the program is supported by Waterco, which has provided its Hydroxypure chlorine-free sanitisation system and other pool equipment. The program aims to ensure lower-decile school children don’t miss out on learning water safety and swimming skills because of a lack of access to swimming pools.
It’s a program that’s badly needed in New Zealand, a country that has one of the worst annual drowning tolls in the developed world, with fewer children able to swim than a generation ago. Only a fifth of all New Zealand 12-year-olds can swim 200 metres, the minimum survival standard set by Water Safety New Zealand. About a quarter of all primary school students are unable to swim 25 metres, tread water or stay afloat.
Tellingly, 42% of schools do not have a pool and nearly 20% of school pools have closed down in the last decade. According to David Brown, trustee of the Adam Brown Water Safety Trust, more than 40% of children in primary schools don’t have access to a pool.
“If it is impractical to take the kids to a pool, why not take a pool to the kids?” asks Dr Ian Calhaem, a former member of the WaterSafe advisory board. The Pools iN SchoolZ program was the brainchild of Dr Calhaem.
The program literally takes portable pools into schools to teach children how to swim. It provides covered and heated 10-metre portable pools to schools around New Zealand free of charge. Each pool rotates between four schools each year.
For each pool, Waterco has provided a Hydroxypure sanitisation system, a MultiCyclone centrifugal filtration device, two S702 fibreglass filters, a Supatuf 250 pump and an Electroheat heat pump.
When asked to support the program, Waterco didn’t hesitate. “We thought it was a brilliant idea, and we now provide equipment for all 16 pools which travel around the country,” said Mike Alexander, Waterco Ltd New Zealand manager.
“Each pool in the Pools iN SchoolZ program is used by up to 200 students a day, so it’s crucial to have quality, dependable pumps, filters, heat pumps and sanitisation to maximise the opportunity for these kids to become proficient around water.
“The reaction to an interest in the Hydroxypure sanitisation system has been remarkable, as it creates a truly chlorine-free swimming pool that is ideal for anyone with respiratory problems or skin allergies like asthma or eczema - conditions that are exacerbated by exposure to pool chlorine. This was especially important with the increasing number of children who have a reaction to chlorine.”
Dr Calhaem had the idea of taking pools to schools in late 2009. He then designed, funded and built a pilot unit that was successfully trialled by WaterSafe Auckland, proving that portable pools are practical and cost effective.
“We are happy to be involved with such a worthy cause as Pools iN SchoolZ,” said Alexander. “Anything that can help reduce the tragic number of kids drowning each year is to be lauded. This type of education really can save lives.”
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