Read Michael Harkins’ top 5 tips for picking the best possible swimming lessons for your little one;
1. Reviews & Recommendations
It might seem like an obvious place to start, but research has shown that nearly 95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase or signing up for a service. The most powerful form of advertising is word-of-mouth, so if your friends and family speak passionately about a swimming lesson provider, then you might be on to a winner!
Social media has also made this process a lot easier, as customers can now quickly leave reviews either on a provider’s website or their social media. I recommend checking the number and frequency of reviews and, most importantly, the length and content. Ideally, you want to be able to see 5-star reviews that were posted within the last few months and use them to learn as much as you can about the teachers and the lessons.
On the subject of social media; it’s a core part of the swim school world these days, so it’s worth checking how regularly a potential provider is posting on Facebook, Instagram etc. and how quickly they reply to your messages. Good service on social media more often than not translates into good service in classes.
I understand that being a parent is a costly business! It’s widely reported that the price of swimming lessons is one of the main reasons that parents choose not to place their children in classes. This is despite the per-lesson-price of swimming classes being comparable to other activities or sports – none of which offer the same potentially-life saving skill.
As with most things; it’s a case of buy cheap, buy twice. Swimming lessons that are priced between £3-6 tend to be operated on a lower budget with larger classes, fewer teachers and less equipment. This can all add up to a longer learn-to-swim time; meaning that you’re actually paying more overall. I’ve certainly seen this in my 10+ years of swimming teaching and it’s something that a lot of parents wish they could go back and do differently.
Whilst higher priced lessons (in the £6-10 range) should offer smaller classes, more teachers and better-quality equipment, you’re still well within your rights to ask for a free trial. Swimming is an investment in your child’s future and if a potential provider is cagey about letting your little one try before you buy, then my advice would be to steer clear!
Class formats vary enormously but my key things to look out for include:
- A class format based on Scottish Swimming, Swim England or the STA learn-to-swim frameworks
- A maximum of 6 kids in any one class
- Teachers in the water to support younger swimmers. (This is also a great safety measure as it means children are only ever half an arm’s length away.)
- Use of swimming aids to support children learning to swim correctly and through fun
- Lessons in pool depths that children cannot touch the bottom. (This may sound harsh, but it helps kids learn straight away that they need to swim to move and stops them walking rather than swimming!)
Again, I might be stating the obvious, but just because you live next door to a swimming pool doesn’t mean those lessons are the best ones for your child!
If you’re hearing brilliant things about a teacher in a pool 20 mins away, then don’t automatically rule out sending your child to that class. In the long run, you really could save time and money by going with a better provider who’s more suited to your child.
It’s also worth speaking with teachers to see if they offer lessons closer to home or can refer you to providers they trust.
In my experience, fun is probably the most overlooked element in swimming lessons. I’m sure I don’t need to tell any parent out there that getting kids to swimming lessons can be a job in itself! But once the kids are in the pool, it’s my job as a swimming instructor to make them fall in love with the water – and the way we do that is through fun and games. (Including the Shape Game! – pictured above)
Linking back to our first point; do the reviews, comments etc. mention how much fun the kids are having? Are games or fun time built into the lesson framework? Do fellow parents talk about their kids having fun in lessons?
I’ve found that if kids are having fun, they learn quicker. Their behaviour in the pool is also better and they get more out of their time in the lessons. Fun, whilst seemingly frivolous, should be something that’s core to the provider you pick.
No one knows your child better than you, so my last piece of advice would be to go with your gut instinct. Learning to swim really is an investment in your child’s future, so never feel rushed into making a decision!
Michael Harkins is an award-winning swimming instructor with over 10 years of experience teaching children and adults across Scotland. He is the founder of Turtle Pack, the author of The Adventures of Tiki the Turtle book series for pre-school children and runs the Turtle Pack Swim Academy – West Lothian.