WATER-WISE: Starford Toa in the portable pool at Auckland's Pt England School, where pupils are getting water education.
If schools can't get their students to a pool, why not bring the pool to the school?
It sounds far-fetched, but that's exactly what WaterSafe Pools2Schools programme is doing in Auckland.
Chief executive Sandy Harrop says schools face a lot of barriers when it comes to giving their students an aquatic education.
"These barriers are identified by schools as support for teachers and the cost of pool entry, tuition, transport [and] time out of school," she says.
Pools2Schools breaks down all those barriers by bringing the pool – and all that goes with it – to the school.
The programme was trialled at Papakura's Red Hill Primary school last year using a 10m by 5m vinyl portable pool borrowed from Premier Exhibitions.
Deputy principal Charlotte Castle said that when the school started working with WaterSafe, it realised a lot of its students didn't even know how to float. Now, thanks to $95,000 of KiwiSport funding, Pools2Schools has its own portable pool, water filter system, heat pump, scaffolding, marquee, security fencing and trailer.
It also comes with WaterSafe Auckland's aquatic education facilitator Chris Burton, who teaches the students and the teachers. Burton says Pools2Schools is not just about teaching kids how to swim 200m – a goal set out in the national curriculum.
"That's not necessarily going to help you in a rip," he says. "It's about building a knowledge base and decision making."
Decisions such as when to signal for help, how to fit a life jacket and how to duck-dive under big waves.
For the past seven weeks the covered pool has been at east Auckland's Pt England School. When the Sunday Star-Times visited, Year 5 students were learning how to use their hands like ice-cream scoops and how to stay warm and float in the water.
"I feel like a safer swimmer," 10-year-old Crusader Faletagoai says. "I didn't know how to do it properly before." Classmate Prince Scanlan says he's going to show his three and six-year-old sisters what he's learnt in the pool this term. Teacher Helen Squires says the students have also enjoyed lunchtime classes in the pool with Water Polo NZ, Surf Lifesaving and Olympic swimmer Hayley Palmer. Fellow teacher Jody Wild says her Year 1 students have "come along in leaps and bounds".