Weak swimming training from before – hit rock bottom in the pandemic years – VG

DIVING: Swimming 100 meters on the stomach and along the way diving down and retrieving an object with your hands, is one of the competence goals in the curriculum that students should be able to after the 4th step. ILLUSTRATION PHOTO: Cornelius Poppe / NTB

For many students, swimming lessons have been absent during the pandemic. The swimming president is more than worried on his way into the bathing season.


Swimming is the only school subject you can die from not mastering, said longtime president Per Rune Eknes in the Swimming Association.

From the early 2000s, he fought a long battle to fill empty swimming pools around the country. In addition, work was done and lobbied for clearer competence goals. Students had to master swimming and lifesaving earlier, and several years before they started junior high.

But at the beginning of the bathing season and the summer of 2022, there are many indications that the progress in school swimming in many places is as effective as with a fish on land.

VERSTING CITY: Oslo is one of the cities where swimming lessons are the worst at school. The picture is from the outdoor facility Frognerbadet, where the entire swimming training for some schools took place during four to five days a year.

A condition report that NIFU has prepared for the Directorate of Education based on a survey of schools shows that fewer students were able to swim after the fourth grade in 2021, compared to the condition in 2018.

A smaller proportion of schools in 2021 (42 per cent) than in the 2018 survey (53 per cent) state that between 76 and 99 per cent of today’s 5th grade pupils were able to swim after 4th grade.

In addition, the survey, which was conducted by NIFU (Nordic Institute for Studies of Innovation, Research and Education) showed that:

  • One in ten school leaders states in the survey that all swimming lessons were canceled for the school year 2020/2021.
  • Significantly larger proportions of school leaders in primary schools in the most central municipalities state that all swimming lessons were canceled than school leaders in the least central municipalities.
  • Fewer than half of both school leaders and school owners state that they have initiated measures to compensate for the lack of swimming instruction during the pandemic.

Barely liquid

The background is that swimming lessons have been downgraded, limited and barely fluent in many Norwegian municipalities from the past.

A survey conducted by the Norwegian Swimming Association and the Rescue Society from the spring of 2021 showed that the fifth graders now have poorer swimming skills than in 2013.

The proportion who swam 200 meters or longer without buoyancy aids was then 53 per cent, and had fallen to 41 per cent.

SWIMMING PRESIDENT: Cato Bratbakk is the leader of the Norwegian Swimming Association.

Swimming president Cato Bratbakk thinks swimming lessons are upstream.

– None of the surveys show signs that the swimming training has improved since new competence goals came in 2015 and the skills test from 2017. Based on the answers from both surveys, one can conclude that the main part of the swimming training takes place in the fourth stage. Combined with the pandemic, this has led to the students not receiving sufficient training to be able to achieve the competence goals by the end of the fourth grade, Bratbak tells VG.

– Have the new learning goals not had any effect?

– What was not done by swimming training before the pandemic has been difficult to compensate for during the pandemic. It is therefore difficult to say whether new learning goals have had any effect, but it is clear that schools must start swimming lessons earlier, Bratbakk answers.

Swimming pool shortage

He himself has his background from the sport of swimming in Oslo. The capital has long struggled with far too little swimming pool capacity. The swimming lessons have been then.

– The swimming pool situation in Oslo is not good, to say the least, says Bratbakk.

Tøyenbadet has been demolished, and the new Tøyenbadet will not be completed until 2024. This illustrates some of the situation, according to the president.

His colleague in the Norwegian Lifesaving Society, Claire Ann Alfonso, shares the concern about the situation.

– I do not like that our children do not get the swimming instruction they are actually entitled to in schools. The new curricula also require the necessary lifesaving skills in a natural environment. It is good. This means that training can also be conducted outdoors.

– Can it be a sleeping pad for politicians who do not provide an indoor swimming pool for students?

– I do not hope so. Students from 1st to 4th grade definitely need to get swimming lessons in indoor pools, Alfonso answers.

SAVIOR: Claire Alfonso is chairman of the board of the Norwegian Lifesaving Society. The photo of her was taken in Tøyenbadet in Oslo – before it was demolished.

The researchers behind the survey of swimming training in recent years, write:

“From the map, it may appear that the infection pressure, especially in the Oslo area, meant that
all swimming lessons were canceled. Furthermore, it also indicates that cancellation of the swimming lessons was a metropolitan phenomenon that affected the Stavanger area and Bergen. “

But there were also bright spots in the surveys:

“Especially in Western Norway, South-Eastern Norway and in Northern Norway, swimming training seems to have gone almost normally.”

Tanja Krangnes is the head of drowning prevention at Redningsselskap. She usually tries to have a positive approach to water.

– We are concerned that people should like sea and water. But water can also be a risk. That is why it is important with more and better swimming training both indoors and outdoors, and that many more children learn to travel safely in and by water, Krangnes says to VG.

SWIMMING HOURS: Swimming lessons have become a rare affair for many students in Norwegian schools. ILLUSTRATION PHOTO: Frank May / NTB

Her own employer, Redningsselskapet, is together with the Swimming Association behind the survey from 2021 which shows that only two out of five ten-year-olds in Norway achieve the competence goals for swimming skills in the curriculum.

– It is a huge paradox in a country that has the world’s second longest coastline, the head of department states.

Bathing season on the doorstep

She has figures that show that drowning accidents have remained stable in Norway in recent years. On average, there have been 93 drownings annually in the last ten years. Last year, 75 people drowned, while so far this year, 25 people have drowned, according to the Rescue Company’s statistics.

Summer is the season with the most drowning accidents (40 percent).

– The number of drowning accidents has remained relatively stable. Unfortunately, there has not been the same development as in road traffic, where there has been a sharp decline. A zero vision was introduced there in the early 2000s. We believe that such a thing must also be introduced when it comes to drowning accidents. It will oblige both the authorities and others to introduce more preventive measures, Krangnes concludes.

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