Learn to swim FAQs

Child swimming with buoyancy aid

Find out all you need to know about the Derby Active Learn to Swim Programme.

Our programme follows the world-leading Swim England Learn to Swim syllabus from Ducklings through to Stage 10. Once your child has completed Stage 7, they will be a confident and competent swimmer, able to swim 100m using at least 3 different strokes and ready to move on to the next stage of their swimming journey.

Our aim is for all swimmers to complete Stage 7 so they can continue life with skill and confidence in and around water. Overall we want to help your child achieve their swimming goals, whether that’s to become the next swimming star, to be skilful and stay safe in and around water or simply to have fun with friends.

Stages 8-10 offer additional opportunities for your child to continue swimming and have fun in the water, including competitive swimming and rookie lifeguarding.

What is the format of Derby Active's swimming lessons?

Lessons run for 48 weeks in the year with a two week break in the summer and at Christmas. Children are continuously assessed and progress through the stages as they reach the required ability and skill level for each stage.

Our swimming lessons are 30 minutes long with 5 minutes reserved for administration, so you can expect at least 25 minutes of teaching time. Some teaching, for example key water safety messages, can take place out of the water, so children are learning both in and out of the pool.

To make the most of teaching time, please make sure your child is changed and ready to join in 5 minutes before the lesson starts.

Ducklings to Stage 3 lessons take place in our Teaching Pool and children use floating equipment until it’s no longer needed. Stages 4+ move into our 25m Gala Pool.

What about swimming hats, aids and clothing?

Children must wear a swimming hat for their lesson and we have a different coloured hat for each stage – children love getting their new hat when they progress to the next stage, they are available from reception for £1.

All necessary swimming aids will be provided by the teacher.

Swimmers can wear swimming trunks, swimming shorts, swimming costumes, lycra-based tops and burqinis / hijoods. We recommend all jewellery is removed for lessons.

Whether or not your child wears goggles is their choice, especially if they find it makes it easier to swim. Please make sure their goggles are fitting well before the lesson begins.

Can I track my child's progress?

Our Swimming Instructors use iPods to track your child's progress during their lessons. Each week the instructor will cover different competencies and assess your child's ability at carrying out each particular skill. 

You can view your child’s progress from the comfort of your own home within 24 hours of the lesson using an app called the Home Portal, you can also manage their lessons and your payments using this app. To register, follow this link and register using your child’s name and membership card number.

How can I help my child progress and stay excited about learning to swim?

Making sure your child enjoys their swimming lessons is not only very important to you and to us, it also helps keep them excited about learning this valuable life skill. We also understand that acknowledging achievement is important to children and so we offer a range of Swim England badges, gained as your child progresses through the programme. There are two badges available at each stage and you’ll receive a notification on the Home Portal when your child has earned a new badge.

You are a very important part of your child’s progress and enthusiasm for swimming, here’s how you can help keep them on track:

  • Make sure your child attends their lessons regularly
  • Go swimming together in addition to lessons to practise skills and have fun in the water, there are plenty of family sessions at Queen’s Leisure Centre both during term time and the school holidays
  • When your child is young, support their swimming through play
  • Notice what they are doing in their lessons and acknowledge their achievements
  • Encourage them to learn at their own pace and praise their progress
  • There’s also lots of good information for parents on the Swim England website

How long does it take to progress through each stage of the programme?

Every child progresses at different rates and some children may find some stages easier than others. At Stage 4 the progression rate does slow down as they need to learn to master the four strokes.

Sometimes children can get stuck on a particular area for a while, and so we will work with them to progress through more difficult skills such as breaststroke and butterfly. 

It's much better that your child learns swimming skills properly and with time and care than to rush through the programme, they will enjoy their lessons much more if they are able to progress at their own speed. 

Do you have lessons for disabled people?

Disabled people can learn to swim in our mainstream lessons, if you have any specific questions you'd like to ask, please contact Queen's Leisure Centre. We also offer swim sessions for people of all ages with any disability to enjoy a relaxed and private session, see the pool programme for details.

How do I pay for lessons?

The best way to pay for lessons is by monthly direct debit then your child's space is guaranteed until that payment is stopped. Direct debits need to be set up are set up with a member of our team at the centre.

If you have pre-paid for a 12 week block of lessons, we’ll send you a reminder email when you have 3, 2 and 1 lessons left until payment is received.  You must pay for the next 12 week block before your final pre-paid lesson starts otherwise your child will be automatically removed from the class and could lose their space.

My child has started having swimming lessons with school, should they continue with the Derby Active programme?

School swimming lessons tend to have much larger class sizes than with our Learn to Swim programme so your child will not get the same amount of attention and although there are some similarities, the school lessons follow a different programme. School programmes also don't tend to focus as much on the different stroke techniques.

We believe that school swimming lessons should be seen as an addition to our programme but not as a replacement.

An overview of the stages in the Swim England programme

For the most up to date information about the Swim England Learn to Swim programme, visit their website where you can also find plenty of news, information, hints and tips and resources for parents and carers. For a quick look at what each swimming stage will teach your child, take a look at the summaries below.


Fun sessions that focus on play for pre-school children aged 3-5 years with the teacher in the pool. Helps children learn to love to get wet, build water confidence and gain the skills to move up to the next stage.

Stage 1

Building more confidence in the water and getting used to a more structured class style, children will learn to put their face in the water and basic movement skills through play and games.

Stage 2

Moving on to learn about safe entry and exit to the water, floating and by the end able to travel 5 metres unaided.

Stage 3

By the end of Stage 3, children will be able to travel 10 metres on their front and back, pick up an object from the bottom of the pool, rotate in the water and understand key water safety messages.

Stage 4

Moving into our 25m Gala Pool, children are introduced to deeper water and start to learn the 4 swimming strokes and swim greater distances unaided.

Stage 5

Learning better stroke techniques and coordination, learning how to scull and tread water and more water safety skills.

Stage 6

Swimming greater distances, perfecting technique and including rhythmical breathing, plus learning the importance of preparing well for exercise.

Stage 7

By the end of Stage 7, children will be able to swim 100m using at least 3 different strokes, perform a movement sequence and complete an obstacle course using all the skills they’ve learned throughout the programme.

Stage 8, 9 & 10

By Stage 8 swimmers have demonstrated the core techniques to be confident, skilful and safe in the water. They can now take up competitive swimming and our rookie lifeguard course.

Rookie Lifeguard

The Rookie Lifeguard programme includes three different sections, Bronze, Silver and Gold, by completing the full programme, Rookies will be able to perform a wide range of skills including coiling and throwing a rope, treading water in clothes, casualty rescue, shock treatment and hand signals to name a few.

What next?

Swimmers can join one of Derby’s swimming clubs, lifesaving clubs, take up casual or fitness swimming at Queen’s Leisure Centre and enjoy all the other activities Derby Active has to offer e.g. The Movement gym membership for young people. But whichever you choose, keep swimming!