At BritSwim, we’re very particular about our student groupings. Our group classes never hold more than five, and we try to place students into groups where everyone shares not only a similar level of experience and skill, but also where attitude and personality are a match. This is especially important when teaching groups of children. We want kids learning with us to look forward to their lessons and leave them with a smile on their faces; so we put them with groups where they can really flourish and have fun, while learning essential swimming and water safety skills.
This is why our Assessment Sessions are so important.
Rather than designate children with very broad labels like ‘Beginner’, we do our very best to find out what each student is like, what they are scared of, what challenges they might face – and then find them groups containing like-minded kids.
So, what is an Assessment Session?
And how should you prepare your child for it?
First of all, for younger children in particular, ‘Assessment Session’ is a somewhat intimidating term to use for what is essentially a few minutes in the water with a friendly swimming teacher.
When you come along for assessment, your child should be ready to get into the water – that is, in their swimwear, with goggles and a hat if he or she has them.
The first part of the assessment is the teacher meeting the student, outside the water, and setting the child at ease, if necessary.
Again, this is particularly important for younger kids – imagine being four years old and handed to a stranger in a new and possibly scary environment!
We also explain in appropriate terms just what is going to happen during the assessment, to remove any fears they might have.
We need to see what your child has learnt, and has yet to learn, and we can only do this if the student is relaxed and happy – so that’s what we aim for at the start of each assessment
Once the child has entered the pool with the BritSwim instructor, we’ll ask him or her if she has done various tasks before, starting with the most basic things, and, depending on the experience shown by the student, progressing to more advanced skills, all the time encouraging the child.
So a typical assessment for a four-year-old beginner might go something along the lines of: Can you put your chin in the water? Great! How about blowing some bubbles? You can – fantastic, could you show me? Have you ever gone all the way under the water? No? That’s OK, we can learn that later.
An assessment for an older and more experienced student may go on to demonstrations of the different strokes.
Once we have seen the extent of the student’s abilities and experience, that’s the end of the assessment.
The next stage is to find your child a BritSwim group that works for the student in terms of suitability, and for you in terms of convenience of location, time, and day.
We’re sometimes asked if a parent should be in the pool during assessment. There is no need for the parent to get into the water as well – and if your child will not enter the pool without you, then that is the basis on which we form our assessment.
What a student is scared of, and will refuse to do, is just as important to know as what skills and experience they have.