Not All Sports Are Made Equal



Here at DCSZ we are all about promoting all sports equally, giving each discipline its own chance to flourish and thrive, allowing us to create a holistic programme of activities which give students the best chance of finding their niche within a sporting context. However, there is one sport which the PE Department hold close to their heart: Swimming.

We know the many and fantastic health benefits which can be gained from swimming, along with the impressive spectacle of a swim meet, but beyond this and at its very basic level swimming has the ability to save your child’s life. Something no other sport can claim to offer.

Drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths.

Globally, the highest drowning rates are among children 1–4 years, followed by children 5–9 years. In the WHO Western Pacific Region children aged 5–14 years die more frequently from drowning than any other cause.

In China drowning is the leading cause of injury death in children aged 1–14 years.

(World Health Organisation, 2021)

Here at the College, we pride ourselves on our drive and determination to provide every student with the opportunity to develop the basics of their swimming and water confidence (regardless of age) giving them the fundamental and foundational skills to keep themselves safe in and around water.

“Being able to swim and being adequately water safe are essential skills for all children to acquire. I have extremely fond memories of growing up in Australia, exploring the outdoors during summer and feeling that I could enjoy water sports with confidence,” said Mr Mike O’Connor, Headmaster of Dulwich College Suzhou, “Swim and water safety capability were also key priority skills for my children to acquire when they were little so that they could enjoy water activities with freedom and confidence. So as both a father and also a Head of College who supports nearly a thousand students, I encourage all families to prioritise swimming lessons and water safety because it literally could save yours or another child’s life.”


Within the DUCKS programme our students are taught the basics of kick, floatation and water confidence, allowing them to manipulate and steer their bodies in the water.

Junior School

At Junior School level students are taught the basics of forming strokes, developing the techniques needed to travel across water, as well as enter safely and look for dangers that may appear.

Senior School

Within our Senior School programme students are taught water safety specifics with a key focus on how they can keep themselves and others safe in water, regardless of location and situation. This curriculum involves scenario-based lessons using real-world examples and questions, such as: ‘You’re in JinJi Hu and your boat has gotten into trouble, which technique would you use to get yourself to the side safely?’. Not only do students think about these questions, they are also given chance to experiment, practise and improve their techniques and skills within a safe and supportive environment.

Of course, we very much hope that our students will never have to answer these types of questions for real, but if they do, they feel confident enough to respond safely and calmly, keeping them safe.


Sadly, despite the statistics and efforts of the PE Department to create engaging lessons which keep the focus away from competition and ability, swimming still sees the biggest numbers of non-participation within the PE curriculum. We regularly see over 1/3 of students excused from their lessons, or not participating as they do not have their kit. Every missed lesson is a missed opportunity for a child to develop and improve a potentially life-saving skill or technique.

How can parents help us?

We recognise that students may need to miss swimming from time to time, and like any other lesson this may be due to illness or injury, however, the number of excused students during a swimming unit is disproportionate to that of any other sport. We also recognise that having your child to swim during the school day away from your watchful eyes can be worrying as a parent. Here at the College many of our staff’s children participate within the swimming programme, including Mr Fasciolo-Barnes two sons, he said:

“As a parent, I believe that offering children the opportunity to swim at school is invaluable. It allows the child a chance to learn a complex, and important life skill, under the guidance of a well-qualified professional. As with learning any new skill or concept, learning to swim can be stressful at times. Students need to develop resilience and parents need to trust that the staff involved in the process are experienced and knowledgable.”

We simply ask our parents to do all they can to encourage their child to swim if they are able to, even if it is just for part of the lesson. As a department we are always happy for a child to take it easier if they are feeling ill or carrying an injury, having a go at what they can. If you have any questions or concerns about your child swimming at the College, the PE Department are always available to discuss.

Further Reminders

In addition please can I remind parents of the below steps to help their child enjoy swimming, by ensuring they are properly prepared for the lesson.