Five children try to swim a lane through the deep pool of the konigsbad with narrowed eyes and a tight grip on the board. They practice the correct leg stroke for the crawl. Barbara kestler, head of the beginners’ swimming program of the german life saving society (DLRG) in forchheim, explains the correct technique to the children beforehand at the edge of the pool. Knowing how to swim safely is essential for survival, because in deep water even a pool noodle is no longer any help. But fewer and fewer children can swim safely.
Swimming skills jerky
"In the district of forchheim, the non-swimming rate among fourth-graders was about 13 percent in 2016", says cordula haderlein, head of the forchheim school board. Bettina trondle, a teacher at anna elementary school in forchheim, adds: "when we take the second-graders to the pool at the beginning, only a good third manage to swim at least two lanes in the deep pool."
By the end of fourth grade, two to four children were still afraid to dip their heads in the water. Therefore, especially in the preschool years, parents are asked to get their children used to swimming.
Parents in duty
"If nothing comes from home, there is no learning process", swimming coach kestler emphasizes and takes parents to task. "Especially in the learning phase it is important to practice several times a week. It is not enough to book a swimming course once and go to the swimming pool, but it is necessary to practice regularly in the deep pool and to consolidate the technique." Parents who don’t like swimming themselves are often afraid of teaching the child the wrong thing.
It’s not that easy to get into a course yourself, though. The activities offered by the clubs in forchheim and the VHS are regularly fully booked. The last course of the DLRG had to be cancelled due to corona. "The next beginners course is planned for september. After going online, the first application came in shortly after midnight", says kestler.
Spab instead of sport
In principle, children rarely go swimming properly, says kestler. The diving pool factor is problematic. "You don’t have to know how to swim to slide and splash around. In a water depth of 1.20 meters, the child can stand and this is not an effective swimming training, where endurance training and movement coordination are important", explains the swimming coach. "Swimming is not a fun sport, but a life-saving cultural technique."
Where bathers stay, children can no longer go swimming with their parents and schools. The latter are finding it increasingly difficult to carry out the swimming lessons provided for in the curriculum. The 30 elementary schools in the district use a total of seven swimming pools for swimming lessons (forchheim, ebermannstadt, grafenberg, hirschaid, pottenstein, erlangen, spardorf), so three of the pools are located directly in the district of forchheim. In 2012, the indoor swimming pools in kirchehrenbach and gobweinstein were closed down.
Like many other smaller communities, they could no longer afford the operating and necessary renovation costs in the long term.
The state education authority in forchheim, which is responsible for primary and secondary schools, states that swimming lessons are part of physical education. This comprises a total of two or three hours per week, respectively. There is no fixed allocation of the amount of physical education that has to be devoted to swimming. This is within the school’s decision-making scope. In schools that are located in the immediate vicinity of a swimming pool, almost all grades can take swimming lessons. Schools that take a long time to get to and from the swimming pool also limit swimming lessons to one grade level or run them on a rotating basis over several weeks.
Schools are challenged
The elementary school in neunkirchen am brand, which for many years went to spardorf to swim, has been facing a problem since the renovation of the pool. "In case of emergency, schools will have to do more gymnastics than swimming in the future", explains the principal anna wellhofer.
According to the administration, the konigsbad in forchheim still has enough free capacity, but it is too far away. The offer from grafenberg is probably incompatible with the school’s timetable. The bus rides are problematic, as they have to be deducted from the 100 minutes of teaching time. Effectively, 25 to 45 minutes of swim time remain, depending on the school.
For the elementary school in egloffstein, it is also not worthwhile to make the regular trip to the grafenberg baths. Therefore, there is a consideration to replace the swimming lessons with a swimming course. "If the market in egloffstein takes over 70 to 80 percent of the costs, a favorable offer can be created in which all children can participate. The course was held outside school hours and included ten units, instead of the previous six swimming lessons", explains principal barbara gruber. In the summer, it would also be possible to regularly take the classes to the outdoor pool in egloffstein – if the renovation work is finished by then.