STA’s Charity Campaign Shines a Light on Disability Swimming

STARLIGHT was launched as a charity campaign by STA last summer, with the aim of upskilling swimming teachers and qualifying them as specialist disability swimming teachers for free – and we can now confirm that in just six months, 500 swimming teachers successfully gained the STA Award in Aquatic Teaching – Disability Swimming (STA DS) qualification endorsed by CIMSPA.

On surveying the swimming teachers who benefitted from the STARLIGHT funding in March 2024, STA asked why they wanted to gain this specialist swimming teaching qualification, and they said:

  • More than a quarter said they had always wanted to but couldn’t afford the training, and the STARLIGHT funding gave them the opportunity
  • More than a third wanted to learn new skills and build confidence so that they can start to teach disability swimming
  • More than three-quarters wanted to develop their professional skills and bring them into the disability swimming lessons they already run
  • Many others also commented they wanted to go on and tutor the STA DS.

As a result, an overwhelming majority (86%) confirmed that they will be adapting all their swimming lessons to be more inclusive; with more than three-quarters also saying they now have the confidence to teach swimming to participants of all ages with all ranges of disabilities.

One of the key principles of the new STA DS, which also launched in 2023, is to give swimming teachers the skills and knowledge they need to implement inclusive learn-to-swim strategies in both mainstream and specialist disability lessons – and again three quarters of the STARLIGHT learners from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said as a result of gaining the STA DS, they are now confident to integrate disability swimmers into mainstream lessons, and deliver one-on-one / small group lessons.

Dave Candler, STA’s CEO said that these statistics are a key indicator of the success of STARLIGHT, and that this charity campaign, wholly funded by STA, has directly ‘shined a light’ on the importance of disability swimming, by helping to bridge the skills gap and raise teaching standards across the UK.

He said: “We proactively funded this campaign because we know there is demand for disability swimming and therefore a need for specially trained teachers. This has been backed up by the STARLIGHT learners too, with 81% confirming there is a demand for disability lessons for children in their regions.

“By becoming qualified, we know our 500 STARLIGHT teachers will now go on and use the skills and knowledge they have gained, to confidently ‘shine a light’ on disability swimming, so that more participants of all ages and abilities have the opportunity to access, and benefit from inclusive lessons.”


The name of the campaign, STARLIGHT, highlighted the need to shine a light on disability swimming and reflects not all disabilities are visible – one in five people in England have an impairment, that’s around 11.5 million disabled people (Government’s Family Resources Survey). And, like stars, we are all different and we wanted to equip swimming teachers with the skills and knowledge needed to teach disabled swimmers of all differing abilities – and make them shine bright and enjoy all the benefits from being in the water.

Why a focus on disability swimming is important?

STA cares passionately about giving people of all ages and abilities the opportunity to learn how to swim and to enjoy the water safely. For disabled people, it cannot be underestimated how incredibly beneficial swimming is, and how the physical properties of the water give those with limited mobility a real sense of freedom, while providing effective physiotherapy.

For young people and children with special educational needs and disabilities, the process of learning to swim also helps with balance, coordination and the development of motor skills. As they learn to float and move through the water, they can also build muscle tone, strength, and coordinate different motions. As compared to land-based activities, swimming truly offers everyone, regardless of ability, so many physical and health benefits – and it’s fun.

Association News, Member News

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