Swimming in purpose-built pools
Take a dip
Play water-tag, race, toss a ball around, swim lengths or just float on your backs and relax - swimming pools offer endless opportunities to your unit. Swimming is also great exercise for people of all abilities.
Swimming in purpose-built swimming pools covers public swimming pools, leisure centres and private pools in gyms, hotels and resorts. This activity is not permitted in pools located in private homes or gardens.
To take girls swimming, you will need to find a safe local pool with qualified lifeguard cover.
Swimming in purpose-built pools is an adventurous activity and should follow the adventurous activity policy and procedures.
Approved: 5 May 2021
Content owner: Adventure team
If you or another member of your leadership team is running the activity at an external venue/location, follow these extra steps:
- Arrange for a home contact. Leave any route or other relevant details with your home contact and complete a home contact agreement form. Let them know about any changes to your plans.
- Tell your commissioner.
- Get a copy of the public liability insurance of the activity provider before you book.
- Check you hold the relevant qualification (if one is needed) to run the activity and let your commissioner know you plan to run it yourself. If you aren't sure, speak to your local adviser to check.
- Check with the venue that they have the correct equipment and, if needed, specialist clothing that will meet the needs of your group.
- Get any specialist equipment or clothing needed to run the activity not provided by the venue, and make sure this is in good condition and fit for purpose.
- Check that any equipment is suitably insured by the provider and agree what happens to the equipment if it gets damaged.
- Ask for a copy of the venue's safety guidelines and risk assessment (if relevant).
- Make sure you have the correct ratio of participants (girls, leaders and volunteers) to qualified adults (those running the activity if a qualification is needed). This is different to the ratio of leaders to girls.
- Consider the ability and experience of the participants and any disabilities, access needs or health conditions and plan the session accordingly.
Some venues might ask for a disclaimer or waiver to be signed for each person taking part in the activity. This is something which parents/carers must sign on behalf of their child. You can do this along with the consent form. Parents and carers should be given sufficient information from the provider along with the waiver so they can make an informed decision to sign it or not. Leaders can only sign disclaimers and waivers for their own personal participation.
If you're working with an external provider or external instructors to run this activity outside the unit meeting space, follow these extra steps.
- Arrange for a home contact. Leave any route or other relevant details with your home contact and complete a home contact agreement form. Let them know if you make any changes to your plans.
- Tell your local commissioner.
- Tell the activity provider about the ability and experience of the participants and any disabilities, access needs or health conditions that need to be considered when running the activity.
- Choose a reputable and licensed activity provider (where applicable).
- Check the qualified adults hold the correct qualification to be able to run the activity (see the information below).
- Get copies of the instructor qualiﬁcations and public liability insurance of the activity provider before you book.
- Ask for a copy of the providers' safety guidelines and risk assessment.
- Make sure you have the correct ratio of participants (girls and volunteers) to qualified adults (those running the activity). This is different to the ratio of leaders to girls.
- Check with the venue that they have the correct equipment and, if needed, specialist clothing that will meet the requirements for your group.
- Source any specialist equipment or clothing needed to run the activity not provided by the venue, and make sure this is in good condition and fit for purpose.
Lifeguards must hold one of the following minimum lifeguard qualifications:
- RLSS UK National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ) STA Level 2 Pool Responder
- The ratio of lifeguards to swimmers will be given in the Normal Operating Procedure (NOP) for the pool concerned. All public pools are required to have a written NOP and Emergency Action Plan (EAP).
- For structured swimming sessions (a sponsored swim, organised games, badge work etc) instructors may alternatively hold the RLSS National Rescue Award for Swimming Teachers and Coaches (NRASTC).
If you are providing the lifeguards at privately hired or privately owned pools:
- The leader must ensure that there is a suitably qualified lifeguard as outlined above who is not included in the adult-to-girl ratios
- The lifeguard should not be in the water at the same time as the swimmers.
- One lifeguard is required per 250 square metres of pool, or per 50 swimmers.
If you need more information about qualifications, ask your local outdoor activities adviser or contact [email protected]
Finding a lifeguard
Where there are weak swimmers or those with low water confidence, this should be risk-assessed and ratios amended so that there are no more than 2 non-swimmers to 1 competent adult.
Flotation devices may be worn where appropriate to support weak swimmers.
This risk management guidance may help with the risk assessment process.
The leader must:
- Make sure that safety rules and alarm signals have been explained to the girls, as well as the need to obey instructions immediately.
- Follow water safety guidance and ensure that the responsible adult helpers are familiar with them.
In privately hired pools, the leadership team should also:
- Conform to the requirements laid down in the pool’s conditions of hire.
- Agree responsibility for evacuating the rest of the swimmers from the pool if the lifeguard needs to enter the water.
- Know how to make non-contact reaching and throwing rescues.
- Find out where there is a telephone that can be used in an emergency.
- Ensure that emergency equipment, such as rescue aids and first aid equipment, is available.
- Be paired up, stay in these pairs and be responsible for watching each other (the ‘buddy’ system).
- Enter unheated water gradually and come out of the water if they start to get cold.
If doing this activity abroad, the above qualifications and regulations may not be applicable. The leader will need to make enquiries about the reputation and safety standards of the activity provider. Contact your international adviser or outdoor activities adviser, or email Volunteer Support for more guidance.
Adult to child ratios
The ratios below are given as a maximum and ratios must be considered as part of the risk assessment, this may lessen due to any medical conditions, physical ability or other factors.
Leadership team ratio
As this activity will take place outside of your usual meeting place the leadership team adult to child ratio is mandatory.
- Rainbows: 1:2
- Brownies: 1:8 (1:2 for under 8’s)
- Guides: 1:12
- Rangers: 1:12
Qualified adult/participant ratio
There must be a qualified lifeguard present.
We recommend at least one adult with up-to-date knowledge of water safety and rescue techniques, such as the Girlguiding water safety training module.
Activity providers or centres may have different ratios. Where they differ from the above the strictest ratio should be followed.