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Parents' guide to swimming lessons

Parents' guide to swimming lessons

Our Learn to Swim programme builds your child's confidence, techniques and skills in easy to follow stages.

Take a look at the stages below to see what your child will be learning in their lessons and when they will be ready to move up to the next stage.



When your child achieves Stage 1 they will be able to:

  1. enter the water safely
  2. move forwards for a distance of 5 metres
  3. move backwards for a distance of 5 metres
  4. move sideways for a distance of 5 metres
  5. scoop the water and wash the face
  6. be comfortable with water showered from overhead
  7. move from a flat floating position on the back and return to standing
  8. move from a flat floating position on the front and return to standing
  9. push and glide in a flat position on the front from a wall
  10. push and glide in a flat position on the back from a wall
  11. give two examples of pool rules
  12. exit the water safely
  13. be confident with full face in water

Stage 1 is mostly about water confidence, with emphasis on foundation skills such as blowing bubbles, developing floating skills and a basic kick. Your child may use float aids.

Pointy feet (plantar flex)

Points 2 and 3, move forwards for 5 metres and move backwards for 5 metres, have been altered - your child must be able to demonstrate a basic kick with ‘pointy feet’ instead of just any movement. Although they may be in Stage 1 a little longer, they will find Stage 2 easier and pass more quickly.

Points 7, 8, 9 and 10 can be passed with a floating aid, but teachers will encourage your child to try this without a float.

We have also added point 13 - be confident with full face in water - your child will have to show this while performing another skill such as floating. This is an essential skill for  exercises on the front, such as push and glides, floats, and kicking. This will help your child's progression in Stage 2, where these skills are vital for passing into the next stage.

You can help your child build confidence in the water at home by pouring water over their head and getting them to splash their own face while in the shower or the bath, or why not bring them swimming yourself?

Check our pool timetable for the best session for you.

When your child achieves Stage 2 they will be able to:

  1. jump in from the poolside safely
  2. blow bubbles a minimum of three time rhythmically with nose and mouth submerged
  3. move from a flat floating position on the back and return to standing without support
  4. move from a flat floating position on the front and return to standing without support
  5. push and glide from the wall on the back
  6. push and glide from the wall on the front
  7. travel using recognised leg action with feet off the pool floor on the back for 5 metres
  8. travel using recognised leg action with feet off the pool floor on the front for 5 metres
  9. perform a tuck to rotate from a flat floating position on the front to a back floating position, then return to standing
  10. perform a tuck to rotate from a flat floating position on the back to a front floating position, then return to standing
  11. perform a log roll from the back to the front
  12. perform a log roll from the front to the back
  13. exit the water safely

Stage 2 focuses on developing a strong kick, as well as floating skills.

Points 7 and 8, the 5 metre kick on the front and back, must be done without any floats or aids. This ensures they are strong enough to add a basic arm pull in Stage 3.

Points 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11 and 12 - the push and glides and floating - are all done without any float, as this demonstrates that your child has good core strength and is confident in the water.

We have also decided to introduce butterfly and breaststroke kick to this stage. This isn’t assessed until Stage 4, but introducing it earlier will help the child pick it up more quickly when they reach Stage 4. If they can’t do the kick, this won’t stop them from moving on to Stage 3.

Some children may struggle confidently putting their face in the water, if this happens, our swim teachers will try their best to help them become more confident in the water.

You can help them progress much more quickly by bringing them swimming - practising this skill away from a swimming lesson can greatly improve your child’s confidence in the water. See our pool timetable for a session to suit you.

When your child achieves Stage 3 they will be able to:

  1. jump in from the poolside and submerge
  2. sink, push away from wall and maintain a streamlined position
  3. push and glide on the front with arms extended and log roll onto the back
  4. push and glide on the back with arms extended and log roll onto the front
  5. travel 5 metres on the front, tuck to rotate on to the back and return on the back
  6. fully submerge to pick up an object
  7. correctly answer three questions on the water safety code
  8. push and glide and travel 10 metres on the back
  9. push and glide and travel 10 metres on the front
  10. perform a tuck float and hold for three seconds
  11. exit the water without using the steps

Stage 3 concentrates on developing a basic stroke on the front and back. Deep water confidence is also important - although this isn't assessed until Stage 4, this practise makes them more comfortable and confident in deep water.

If your child hasn’t developed a strong kick in Stage 2, then Stage 3 will be extremely tricky. This is why we focus on building a strong kick early in our learn to swim programme.

As in Stage 2, we have introduced breaststroke and butterfly to Stage 3. This isn’t assessed until Stage 4 and won’t hold your child back if they are struggling with it, but starting early will help your child progress more quickly in Stage 4.

Points 9 and 10 (the 10 metres swims) should be assessed in deep water due to the layout of our pools. 

You can help your child progress and build confidence by bringing them swimming, see our pool timetable for a session to suit you.

When your child achieves Stage 4 they will be able to: 

  1. perform a sequence of changing shapes (minimum of three) while floating on the surface and demonstrate an understanding of floating
  2. push and glide from the wall to the pool floor
  3. kick 10 metres backstroke
  4. kick 10 metres front crawl
  5. kick 10 metres butterfly on the front or on the back
  6. kick 10 metres breaststroke on the front
  7. perform a head first sculling action for 5 metres in a flat position on the back
  8. travel on the back and log roll in one continuous movement onto the front
  9. travel on the front and log roll in one continuous movement onto the back
  10. push and glide and swim 10 metres, choice of stroke is optional
  11. be confident in deep water

Stage 4 formally introduces breaststroke and butterfly kick, as well as improving front crawl and backstroke. This stage is mainly focused on leg kick, as this is a good starting point to then develop the full stroke in Stage 5.

Due to the added emphasis on kick in Stages 1, 2 and 3, swimmers should find points 3 and 4 more easy. This means that swim teachers will have more time to practise the more difficult breaststroke and butterfly kick.

While point 5 states, ‘kick 10 metres butterfly on the front or on the back’, we feel this should be changed to just on the front. If a swimmer can’t do the butterfly kick on their front in Stage 4, they will find the full stroke almost impossible.

Please note that due to breaststroke and butterfly kick being assessed in Stage 4, this can make it a tricky stage to pass. If the swim teacher thinks that your child needs a little extra help, we can offer extra breaststroke and butterfly stroke technique lessons as well as one-to-one sessions to help your child progress more quickly. 

Remember, bringing your child swimming outside of lessons give them chance to practice their skills, see our pool timetable for a session to suit you.

When your child achieves Stage 5 they will be able to:

  1. perform a flat stationary scull on the back
  2. perform a feet first sculling action for 5 metres in a flat position on the back
  3. perform a sculling sequence with a partner for 30-45 seconds to include a rotation
  4. tread water for 30 seconds
  5. perform three different shaped jumps into deep water
  6. push and glide and swim 10 metres backstroke
  7. push and glide and swim 10 metres front crawl
  8. push and glide and swim 10 metres breaststroke
  9. push and glide and swim 10 metres butterfly
  10. perform a handstand and hold for a minimum of three seconds
  11. perform a forward somersault
  12. demonstrate an action for getting help

Stage 5 introduces full stroke butterfly and breaststroke and develops front crawl and backstroke from the basic movement in Stage 3 and 4, to a recognised stroke.

While points 6, 7, 8 and 9 state a 10 metre swim, please note that this is 10 metres of Swim England Recognised Stroke (see below for details).

Even if your child has passed these points, their swim teacher will not move them on to Stage 6 until they are strong enough to swim a full length easily. In Stage 6 full lengths are introduced, and we need to be sure they will be safe.

If your child is struggling with the strength/fitness aspect of swimming, then just bringing them swimming once more a week can help,

You can help your child progress and build confidence by bringing them swimming, see our pool timetable for a session to suit you.

 When your child achieves Stage 6 they will be able to:

  1. give two examples of how to prepare for exercise and understand why it is important
  2. sink, push off on side from the wall, glide, kick and rotate into backstroke
  3. sink, push off on side from the wall, glide, kick and rotate into front crawl
  4. swim 25 metres wearing clothes
  5. push and glide and swim front crawl to include at least six rhythmical breaths
  6. push and glide and swim breaststroke to include at least six rhythmical breaths
  7. push and glide and swim butterfly to include at least six rhythmical breaths
  8. push and glide and swim backstroke to include at least six rhythmical breaths
  9. push and glide and swim 25 metres, choice of stoke is optional
  10. perform a shout and signal rescue
  11. perform a surface dive

Stage 6 is the first stage where the swimmers swim full 25 metre lengths. This stage is mainly about increased fitness and stamina, while developing strong strokes.

Although that points 5, 6, 7 and 8, state six rhythmical breaths this could actually be completed in 10 metres or 50 metres depending on the strength of your child's stroke. It’s at the swim teacher’s discretion whether or not your child is strong enough to pass these elements. We have your child's safety at heart, as if your child isn’t strong enough in Stage 7 then they may be in danger.

For point 4, swim 25 metres in clothes, please provide your child with light clothes or pyjamas. Usually your child’s swim teacher will let you know the week before, but we recommend keeping a spare pair of pyjamas in their swim bag. Please note that ‘onesies’ are not allowed, as this presents a safety hazard.

Your child can build strength and stamina, and practice the techniques they learn in their lessons, by coming swimming. See our pool timetable for a suitable session.

When your child achieves Stage 7 they will be able to:

  1. push and glide and swim 25 metres backstroke
  2. push and glide and swim 25 metres front crawl
  3. push and glide and swim 25 metres breaststroke
  4. push and glide and swim 25 metres butterfly
  5. perform a movement sequence of one minute duration, in a group of three or more, incorporating a number of the following skills: sculling, rotation, floating, eggbeater
  6. perform a sitting dive or dive
  7. push and glide and swim 50 metres continuously using one stroke
  8. push and glide and swim 100 metres, using a minimum three different strokes
  9. tread water using egg beater action for 30 seconds
  10. complete an obstacle course (using minimum of four objects), with feet off the pool floor throughout

Stage 7 works on endurance, fitness and refining strokes.

While points 1, 2 and 3, state a 25 metre swim this is to the Swim England expected standards (see below for more details). To pass, your child must be able to swim at least 100 metres (four lengths), of breaststroke, front crawl and backstroke; this shows that they are physically fit enough to cope with Stage 8.

Please note that for point 8, swim 100 metres using three different strokes, your child must have passed the 25 metre swim of that stroke. For example, if your child was to swim using backstroke, front crawl and breaststroke, they must have passed points 1,2 and 3, to also pass on point 8.

Did you know - children that are on our Learn to Swim plan can swim for FREE with a paying adult during course term times? It it can really help your child's confidence, skill and stamina to come swimming in addition to their lessons!

When your child has completed the Learn to Swim plan they will be an accomplished confident swimmer.

Your child might want to carry on with swimming lessons to develop their techniques, stamina and speed by moving on to stages 8, 9 and 10 which make up the Aquatic Skills Framework

Level 8: Developing more advanced swimming techniques and turn ability across all strokes. Completing a 40 metre set on a specified turnaround time.

Level 9: Working towards completion of an 800 metre set with a specified turnaround time and turn development.

Level 10: Underpinning previous skills already learnt with a 1200 metre swim time of under 24 minutes. 

Swim England expected stroke standards (pdf 495 KB)
Learn to Swim Healthy Living Centre timetable (pdf 683 KB)
Learn to Swim Queens Park Sports Centre timetable (pdf 718 KB)

Swim England Learn To Swim Pathway


Last updated on 20 April 2018