At Flesberg school, every single child receives swimming lessons every week at every year level, plus in kindergarten. At Tøyen school in Oslo, some selected classes get a total of 13 hours of swimming annually.
Before the summer holidays and bathing season, there is a difference in how much swimming training and pool access Norwegian students have behind them.
In some places, swimming training has been very limited and almost non-existent in the pandemic years 2020 and 2021, according to a survey from NIFU, commissioned by the Norwegian Directorate of Education.
Elsewhere, students more often have swimming lessons. Something to do with access to a swimming pool.
In the small Flesberg municipality in Numedal in Viken (Buskerud), the 25 x 21 meter large swimming pool plus other facilities was named Sports Facility of the Year in Norway in 2020.
At Tøyen school in central Oslo, some of the students are transported to a temporary swimming pool at Økern a few times a year. The mobile swimming pool is the first “new” swimming pool in Oslo since Holmlia bath was ready 39 years ago. At the same time, Tøyenbadet is closed – pending a new facility in 2024.
Flesberg in Numedal has just over 2000 inhabitants, 300 students (1st-10th grade). The village is not the size of an ordinary Norwegian town.
Nevertheless, they have given priority to building an indoor swimming pool. Both principal Anne Mette Aaby and department head for the swimming hall Merethe Halland are proud of both the facility and the number of students’ swimming lessons.
– Now we have for the first time a swimming offer for all students. And in addition to the rest of the village, says principal Aaby to VG.
There will be plenty of water time for the children in the municipality at Numedalslågen.
– All students in all ten stages have swimming lessons on average once a week. This means that a student has around 38 hours of swimming training a year – and 380 hours in an entire school race, the two say.
At Tøyen school in central Oslo, principal Hilmar Flatabø does not have a separate swimming pool to offer the students.
He thinks they solve the swimming lessons well, given the conditions and the lack of swimming pools in the capital.
– The challenge for the Oslo school has for several years been low pool coverage. In the last school year, we have taken a step back, spent money on transportation and pool access. We have also prioritized teachers for swimming lessons, says Flatabø.
– When you the competence goals in swimming after the 4th step?
– We have been able to offer 50 swimming lessons from the 2nd to the 5th step. This corresponds to 12–13 hours per student at each stage of the year. We check the achievement of the competence goals. And it should be said: The competence goals for 4th grade are so demanding that even adult swimmers can have problems with these. But we clearly see that the swimming skills of our students have improved, the principal answers.
Parents who can not swim
He feels most insecure about students who are older than 4th and 5th grade.
– When it comes to slightly older students, I am more uncertain about the skills. Many have had less swimming training. And some may even have parents who can not swim. To be safer in water, mass training means everything, says Flatabø.
They have taken the consequences of this in Flesberg. This means that the principal is also more confident that more students are safe in the water this summer.
– We have a diverse student body, as in other schools. Not everyone is equally safe in the water. But we are on the right track, and this would have been much more demanding and risky without the swimming pool we now have and use, says Aaby where she sits in a new school in rural Flesberg with Blefjell and Hardangervidda in the background.
Feel free to read: Abid Raja struggled to admit: Could not swim
At Tøyen in the Old Oslo district, Hilmar Flatabø leads the 374 students in the school, which originally dates from 1882.
Last week, he sent students home for a nine-week summer vacation. He says he knows that there are students who can not swim in the older year classes.
– Some of the older students here could probably have received a better swimming education their first school year. Now I feel that we have taken action, the principal answers.
He believes the school “mostly” managed to maintain the swimming lessons through the pandemic.
– But it is probably also important that the parents help to facilitate the amount of training that is needed for the children to become safe swimmers, he adds.