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For our tamariki at kura and primary school, Water Skills for Life is the essential beginning of life-long learning.

Water Skills for Life is the national standard for aquatic education in New Zealand kura and primary schools. It is linked into the curriculum and gives tamariki the skills and knowledge they need to assess risk and make smart decisions around water. Water Skills for Life is learnt in the pool, local water environment and in the classroom.

Why it's important in drowning prevention

For our precious tamariki these are the formative and most important years when water safety can be embedded and a life-long step-change achieved. It is the time when tamariki are most receptive and sets them for further learning and resilience throughout their lives.

This website gives kaiako and teachers the tools to easily teach Water Skills For Life, even if no school pool is available. Alternatively, there are directions to providers, in every area of New Zealand, so that expert education can be at hand. Water Skills for Life teaching resources link through to the Water Skills for Life website


Water Skills for Life lesson plans have been developed for the various age stages of Years 0-2, Years 3-4, Years 5-6 and Years 7-8. The full set of resources in both English and Reo are available here. 

Download a PDF of all lessons plans in English here.

Download a PDF of all lessons plans in Te Reo here.


Only 27 percent of New Zealand schools* provide a minimum acceptable combination of eight or more water-based lessons of 26–30 minutes’ duration per year. The minimum should in fact be 10 lessons of at least 30 minutes.

Faced with the reality that more children are leaving school without the necessary water safety skills, should we accept that more New Zealanders will drown, or address the issue, starting in primary schools?

Water Skills for Life launched in 2016

Traditionally children may learn-to-swim, although even this skill is in decline. The assumption is that swimming skills are also survival skills, however this is far from true.

Water Skills for Life is made up of seven skill sets that contain 27 core skills, it establishes broad fundamental competencies for life-long water safety.

It gives children the skills and knowledge they need to assess risk and make smart decisions around water so they can stay out of trouble and survive should they get into trouble.

Children are taught Water Skills for Life at their school, either by their school teacher or by a swim teacher at a community pool. Schools can decide how they teach their students Water Skills for Life.

It is easier to teach than technical swimming and fun to learn.

Swimming New Zealand work with swim teachers and schools to help them deliver authentic water skills learning experiences for students across a wide and diverse range of abilities, ages and cultures.

Water Skills For Life is partners with Swimming New Zealand and other providers, to deliver the programme, with funding support from the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board and ACC.

*2017 study OF aquatic education in our schools, by the New Zealand Council for Education Research, commissioned by Water Safety New Zealand.

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