Swim schools face lack of teaching staff as children return to the water

James Coleman 22 December 2021 12
Mother, toddler and instructor in pool at swim school

Swim schools across the ACT are still subject to density limits following COVID-19 lockdown. Photo: Stellar Canberra.

As the summer days grow longer and the sun gets hotter, increasing numbers of Canberrans are donning their swim gear and heading out to pools and waterways.

But there’s a problem.

With lingering density limits and a shortage of qualified instructors, swim schools are facing difficulties after reopening following COVID-19 lockdown.

This is leaving parents and instructors concerned as thousands of children take to the water with potentially rusty skills.

Sarah Reed oversees Stellar Swim in Phillip, a health and fitness hub run by the Canberra Southern Cross Club. She says the swim school component reopened as soon as COVID-19 restrictions allowed.

A lack of kids attending has not been an issue since reopening, but it’s a different story when it comes to the teachers.

“Getting teachers back in the pool is one of the main things we’re struggling with post-COVID-19,” says Sarah. “Getting enough teachers is always a bit of an issue in the Australian swim school industry.”

Stellar Swim instructors Steph, Jess, Alice and Lilly

Stellar Swim instructors Steph, Jess, Alice and Lilly. Photo: Stellar Canberra.

Sarah has done a lot of recruitment work with the Royal Life Saving Society over the years, but isn’t sure where the root of the teacher shortage problem lies.

“It’s very typical that for a lot of people, it’s a hard job teaching children to swim day in and day out,” she says. “Being in the water for long periods of time does require stamina.”

Stellar Swim’s school program is currently looked after by 16 qualified teachers, and Sarah says the organisation aims to have each of them striking a happy medium between teaching in the pool and doing other tasks out of the water.


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“They also work at the front desk, at the cafe, and do a lot of the swim school administration to try to keep them interested in the teaching aspect,” says Sarah.

The health club opened up again in October following COVID-19 lockdown and is still subject to density limits. To help ease parents and children back into a world with COVID-19 in it, Stellar Swim has adjusted the student-to-teacher ratio.

Sarah says it’s good the children are back, but such a long break between swimming lessons definitely impacts a child’s stamina and skills in the water.

Swim class at Stellar Swim

Stellar Swim caters to babies, toddlers and school-aged children. Photo: Stellar Canberra.

“If they’re not used to being in the water, they can think they can do things they can’t,” she says. “This is a thing we’re very mindful of and have addressed with all of the families in our swim school.”

Sarah says their priority is making a child safe in the water so if they get themselves into a difficult situation they can get themselves out.

Stellar Canberra is not only home to Stellar Swim, but also hosts four different business units including the Southern Cross Health Club, a women’s gym, Anytime Fitness, and floatation therapy business FloatAbove.

If you’re interested in becoming a swim coach, Stellar Swim is currently hiring. Find out more here.


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12 Responses to Swim schools face lack of teaching staff as children return to the water
Jenny Bruce Jenny Bruce 6:32 pm 06 Jan 22

The price of qualifications is very expensive, if the government made it cheaper , there would be a lot more people putting their hands up

Alison Handley - Ballard Alison Handley - Ballard 11:33 pm 28 Dec 21

Tamara you know who was made to do this...

Viv Wang Viv Wang 9:51 pm 28 Dec 21

Jess van der Walt ur calling

Sarah Worboys Sarah Worboys 9:18 pm 28 Dec 21

Is that you Sophia Petersen?

Lori J Tas Lori J Tas 6:16 pm 28 Dec 21

I'm a bronze medallion holder and former lifeguard, our local pool said they were desperate for people. I emailed them asking how much it would be per hour, they said a salary I would expect at McDonalds ($22 on a weekend). I asked if they could do $35 per hour on a weekend (miles below my work rate) they said no. 🤷🏼‍♀️

Olivia Lyons Olivia Lyons 5:28 pm 28 Dec 21

I have done swim teaching as a side gig, twice, in the past while on Materinty leave fron my 9 to 5 job.

It is hard (not the actual work, the children are beautiful and seeing the progression is rewarding, and getting anxious kids confident in the water is extremely rewarding) You can be in the pool for up to 5 hours straight thats a long time in a heated pool. After a shift, and the days following, you are tired, your skin can be extremely itchy and like childcare for example people who do this full or part time are under paid.

The qualification is also expensive, the qualification also requires something like 30 hours (unpaid) training and when you are getting paid pennies something like a yearly CPR qualification is expensive.

Kerry Jackson Kerry Jackson 4:38 pm 28 Dec 21

I have said it before. Pay them more. It is hard work, the qualifications cost as does keeping up requirements, the work is hard, if rewarding for the right people. The award pay is terrible, and instructors not paid for set up or clean up.

    Lori J Tas Lori J Tas 6:16 pm 28 Dec 21

    Kerry Jackson yup I'm a bronze medallion holder and former lifeguard and our local pool said they were desperate for people, I emailed them asking how much it would be per hour, they said a salary I would expect at McDonalds ($22 on a weekend), I asked if they could do $35 per hour on a weekend (miles below my work rate) they said no 🤷🏼‍♀️

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