STA’s Level 2 Award Breaks the Mould in Swimming Teaching

STA first broke the mould in swimming teaching more than 30 years ago, by moving away from assistant-teacher qualifications in recognition that pool operators / swim schools needed staff to teach lessons rather than act as an assistant – and this is equally prevalent in the current climate with nationwide swimming teacher shortages.

Today, STA still remains the only Awarding Organisation to offer two Level 2 swimming teaching qualifications, and the latest figures from Ofqual, show that STA delivered 50% of all the Level 2 CIMSPA-endorsed swimming teaching qualifications in England in 2022, with 100% of our teachers able to directly teach on poolside and having an impact on millions of people’s lives.

For this blog, I’d like to talk specifically about the STA Level 2 Award in Teaching Swimming qualification*. It is a unique swimming teaching qualification and because of its uniqueness, it can sometimes be misunderstood as there is nothing ‘traditional’ to compare it to. It’s NOT a Level 1 Teaching Assistant qualification and it’s NOT a Level 2 Certificate in Teaching Swimming qualification, so let’s delve deeper into the Award and dispel any myths.

Facts about the STA Level 2 Award in Teaching Swimming Qualification

  • It is endorsed against the CIMSPA Swimming Teacher Professional Standard, which means it meets the professional standards developed by employers and industry experts for swimming teachers, in relation to what learners need to know, understand and demonstrate in order to be ‘work-ready’ when completing a qualification.
  • It is an Ofqual regulated Level 2 qualification (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland), which means holders of the qualification are qualified to teach from within the water or from the poolside independently – it is NOT an assistant teacher qualification.
  • *In Scotland, the Level 2 Award in Teaching Swimming qualification is accredited by SQA Accreditation and levelled at SCQF Level 6.
  • It has been designed to train teachers how to teach swimming rather than how to teach a specific learn to swim award scheme. This last point is important as people will often ask, and confuse the conversation by asking what level of a learn to swim scheme can an Award teacher teach up to it – the levelling, yes, is important to know from a practical workforce point of view, but it’s not a simple like for like ‘traditional’ comparison as I’ll explain later.
  • It is recognised by all the members of the International Federation of Swimming Teachers Association (IFSTA) – more than 22 countries.


Ultimately, the Award was created by the STA to fulfil a need and demand in swimming teaching. Non-swimmer, beginner and improver lessons represent the largest market in grassroots swimming; its where there is the most significant demand for lessons, and where there is the most demand for qualified professional swimming teachers.

  • A Level 1 is a teaching assistant qualification, a qualified swimming teaching will need to supervise a Level 1. A Level 1 cannot teach alone and the qualification is not comparable at all to a Level 2 Award teacher. A STA Level 2 Award teacher is work ready, and is qualified to teach independently the essential swimming skills, the four key strokes and water safety skills.
  • A Level 2 Certificate qualification is the next progressive level after a Level 2 Award qualification and qualifies teachers to teach the advanced swimming skills – such as poolside diving, survival skills and rescue skills, skills which may not be suitable for some swimming pools due to their depth and size. Hence if, a teacher wants to teach the in-demand non-swimmer, beginner and improver level lessons, the Award provides the most fit-for-purpose, and cost-effective qualification. It does not require an employer or a learner to invest in an assistant teacher AND a swimming teacher qualification, as the STA Award swimming teacher is work-ready to teach independently.

About the STA Level 2 Award in Teaching Swimming Qualification

  • It allows teachers to adapt to the participants they are teaching, but also the pool environment, depth and facility they are teaching in. We know swimming lessons are undertaken in a range of different pools and set-ups, not just traditional teaching pools. This means swimming teachers need to know how to adapt to the pool and the participants they are teaching.
  • It teaches people how to teach and be a swimming teacher. This includes the role of a swimming teacher, ensuring teachers are work ready and understand the role they are going to be undertaking. For example, we include how to teach safely within the water, aquatic games and themed lessons, the importance of customer service, how to deal with parental pressure, and common questions / situations and professional conduct.
The curriculum covers:
  • The four key strokes, how to introduce and develop these through teaching practices, games and activities.
  • The progressive practices and teaching points for the essential movement skills and essential swimming skills – the key elements which are needed in order to swim, they underpin all swimming strokes and skills. By definition, this is what we mean when we are talking about teaching at a non-swimmer, beginner and improver level.

Once these essential skills and strokes are developed, participants can progress onto advanced swimming skills. The Level 2 Award curriculum does not cover all the details, or the depth of knowledge required for teaching / assessing advanced swimming skills, including Advanced Diving or Competitive Starts and Turns and Survival and Rescue skills.

Swimming teachers who hold the Level 2 Award qualification can teach / assess the essential movement skills, essential swimming skills and four key strokes (for any distance) within an award badge outcome. They cannot teach the advanced swimming skills; therefore, if a learn to swim award has an advanced swimming skill as part of the outcome that is not in their Award teaching remit, a swimming teacher who holds the STA’s Level 2 Award would not be able to teach or assess this skill.

How the STA Level 2 Award fits within a Learn to Swim Programme

The outcomes for every learn to swim award scheme, and how they are structured (levelled) are specific to each governing body in England, Wales and Scotland. Due to these significant structural differences and the number of badges offered in all the different learn to swim programmes, creating a like for like direct comparison is unachievable.

Therefore, when looking at a comparison, in relation to what skills a Level 2 Award teacher can teach and assess, we instead review the skills and strokes within each individual learn to swim award to determine the best fit. And this must always be determined by the teacher’s qualification remit.

The best explanation is illustrated here – a STA Level 2 Award swimming teacher can:

  • Deliver the STAnley series of awards up to the Goldfish series of STA’s International Learn to Swim Programme (ILSP)
  • Teach the four key strokes (up to any distance) and skills to participants up to Swim Skills 3 of Scottish Swimming Learn to Swim Framework
  • Teach the four key strokes (up to any distance) and skills to participants up to Wave 3 of Swim Wales Learn to Swim Wales.
  • Teach the four key strokes and skills to participants up to stage 7 of Swim England’s Learn to Swim Programme, excluding poolside diving (diving as outlined above is an advanced swimming skill and covered within a Level 2 Certificate qualification and therefore, holders of the STA Level 2 Award can teach the strokes and any distances up to this stage, as well as the other skills including treading water, sculling etc but their qualification will not permit them to teach / assess diving)

Cost Comparisons

For employers and learners, the STA Level 2 Award in Teaching Swimming offers the most cost-effective route for becoming a work-ready professional swimming teacher – one that is fully qualified to teach independently, with the average cost for a course starting around £350-£400 (varies around the country).

Course costs can be reduced even further when learn to swim providers set up their own in-house training model by becoming an STA Approved Training Centre, which many embed as part of their aims to retain and upskill existing staff, and to help attract new aquatic professionals to the industry at this time of nationwide swimming teacher shortages.

With this being a unique qualification, no other AO offers this route into Level 2 swimming teaching; the only alternative would cost hundreds of pounds more to qualify an assistant teacher and then a Certificate level swimming teacher, which in the current climate and with a national shortage of swimming teachers doesn’t make commercial sense if the swimming teacher is going to be teaching these in demand non-swimmer, beginner and improver levels.

Plus, the STA Level 2 Award in Teaching Swimming provides the springboard, the career pathway for STA’s Level 2 Certificate in Teaching Swimming and other professional swimming teaching qualifications including Disability Swimming and Mermaid and Mono Fin Swimming.

Emma Lewis, National Aquatics Manager for GLL: “By utilising STA’s Level 2 Award in Teaching Swimming, our teachers are fully qualified and can be deployed to pools side as soon as they complete a course; thus, ensuring staffing demands are met. This is vitally important when you also consider there is a nationwide shortage of swimming teachers but a record high demand for swimming lessons – with STA’s qualifications we have work-ready teachers that have gone through vigorous training that has been endorsed against CIMSPA’s employer-led swimming teacher professional standard.”

To find out more about a career in swimming teaching, watch our ‘Day in the Life – Swimming teacher’ video

Additional Information


*In Scotland, the Level 2 Award in Teaching Swimming qualification is accredited by SQA Accreditation and levelled at SCQF Level 6.

Association News, Swimming Teaching
Kaylё Brightwell

Kaylё Brightwell

Kaylë has been a swimming teacher for 23 years and specialises in baby and pre-school swimming. With 19 years' tutoring experience, she is passionate about encouraging people to learn to swim and be safe in the water. She has spoken internationally about the importance of learning to swim within a safe, supportive and inclusive environment with the participant at the centre of the lesson. She managed a swim school before joining STA in 2012 where she now heads the qualification development team, creating fit for purpose, high quality training qualifications.

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