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Frequently Ask Questions (FAQs)

Swimming

Q: We have a shallow water pool, which is less than 1 metre deep at its deepest point. What are the minimum qualifications that staff need to possess?

A: The minimum qualifications that the teacher in charge should possess for working with pupils in shallow water pools are resuscitation and rescue skills as well as training in emergency procedures. It is essential that these skills are revised on an annual basis.

Resuscitation skills:

  • CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation)
    Recovery – put a subject into the recovery position
  • Shock – describe the signs and symptoms for shock
  • Cramp/Exposure – recognise and treat the symptoms

Rescue skills:

  • Reach – reach for a person in the water using an appropriate aid
  • Throw – throw an unweighted rope/buoyancy aid
  • Wade – walk out to a subject and effect non-contact rescue
  • An annual record must be kept of teacher rescue effectiveness. This should be recorded.

Q: I have an RLSS Teachers Rescue Test. How often should I update this?

A: The RLSS teachers rescue test allows you to supervise swimming in a deep water pool - (more than 1 metre at its deepest point). It includes rescue and resuscitation skills as well as emergency procedures. The test allows you to supervise swimming to a maximum depth as stated on your certificate. The test should be updated every two years. For teachers who have allowed their certificate to lapse after two years or are undertaking the test for the first time then attendance at a three day course is required.

Details of rescue tests and updates are available from the County Adviser for Physical Education

Schools and staff should ensure that an annual check is also undertaken to assess staff competencies and refresh staff knowledge.

Q: I take a class of 28 children for swimming in our shallow water pool. I am the only qualified teacher, but have two teaching assistants supporting me. Do I have adequate supervision?

A: In making a judgement on adequate supervision, there are certain conditions which you must think about – i.e. age and ability of the group, size of pool and numbers of pupils involved. For curriculum lessons group sizes should not exceed 1:20 for supervision. Having additional support means that you are within the 1:20 ratio, however you must ensure that the teaching assistants are fully aware of their roles and responsibilities and what action to take in the event of an emergency. Many shallow water pools can limit the group size due to their small area. You will therefore need to take this into account when planning your lessons and the activities you are undertaking.

Q: Our PTA wishes to hire the pool for summer holiday sessions. What advice do we need to follow to ensure that both the school and the PTA are adequately covered?

A: When hiring a pool to an outside body including PTA’s, head teachers should be satisfied that supervision will be in accordance with ‘Safety in swimming pools ’published by HSE. The minimum qualification for recreational swimming is a RLSS pool lifeguard qualification.

It is also essential that a telephone is available and the hirer is aware of both normal operating procedures and emergency action plan. The normal county hiring contract should also be adhered to.

Q: In order that we can fulfil national curriculum requirements for swimming, we wish to make use of our local public pool. What arrangements do we need to make to ensure the safety of our staff and pupils?

When taking pupils off-site to swim, schools should ensure that pupils are appropriately supervised at all times. The county guidelines for taking pupils off-site must apply.

Schools should also ensure that they are familiar with the pools normal operating procedures and emergency action plan. A contract between pool management and the school should also be made which details what should be taught and how adequate supervision will be available at all times.

A risk assessment should be completed in accordance with HSE and County guidelines.

Staff v Student Events

Q:We wish to organise a staff v 6th form football game for charity. Can we go ahead with this and what conditions should we apply to the games?

A: Staff/student games have been a feature in a number of schools over the years. They do however have implications for both staff and student safety. Legal cases which have involved accident or injury to students caused by physical contact with adult supervision have provided clear guidance in this regard.

Staff should therefore not participate in activities involving young people as a member of one side against another. This is especially important in games where physical contact can be reasonably foreseen or is present. This also applies for activities where hard missiles are projected i.e. bowling in cricket.

For further information see BAALPE safe practice in Physical Education (millennium edition p167)

Gymnastics

Q: We are well equipped for gymnastic equipment, but our school hall is quite small. I cannot use all of the pieces of apparatus at one time. What should I do?

A: Pupils should have access to a variety of pieces of apparatus in order to develop and extend their skills. However all of the pieces of apparatus do not need to be used each lesson, but should be used in relation to what the children are doing at that particular time. Remember that apparatus used should be appropriate for the age and ability of the pupil.

Q: Should I place mats beneath climbing apparatus where I think that children may fall during a lesson?

A: Mats should be seen as a piece of equipment and not as a safety surface onto which pupils are encouraged to land from high level apparatus. If you are placing a mat, it should be where you anticipate a landing to occur and not where you expect a child to fall.

If you are worried about the undue risk then either modify the task or modify the piece of equipment.

Q: We have a trampette and crash mat sitting in our store cupboard. Can I use them in lesson time?

A: Trampettes and crash mats are prohibited from use in the county’s primary schools curriculum. Both are specialist pieces of equipment, which are potentially hazardous. Only staff who hold a BAG qualification or are appropriately trained may use them for extra curricular activities.

Q: Following our annual inspection of gymnastic apparatus, County Workshops condemned a bench and a number of mats and advised that these items should be withdrawn from use and replaced. Should I follow their advice ?

A: Where apparatus has been condemned following an inspection, a written report should highlight what has been condemned. The pieces of apparatus should also be clearly marked. They should then be immediately removed from use and either fixed or replaced.