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Welcome to birmingham.gov.uk

Strokes Swimming Lessons


Shortcut to this page: www.birmingham.gov.uk/strokesforlife

The newly named Strokes for life programme is a carefully crafted programme that encompasses all swimming pathways and will ensure that both children and adults receive high quality, professional swimming instruction in a safe and friendly environment.

The Strokes for Life framework is an all-inclusive programme which takes non swimmers from their first splash to developing confidence and competence in the water.

The following stages replace the Strokes stages:

Strokes for life

Old Strokes Stage

NEW Stage


Complimentary Awards

Mini Strokes (0 – 3)

Adult and Child

Sessions for babies and young children aged between 0 and 3 years who are new to swimming. Sessions are delivered with adults and children in the water together.

Swim a Song

First Strokes (3-5)


Sessions for children from 3 years – reception school age who are able to follow simple instructions and move independently. Sessions will increase water confidence and familiarise your child with essential skills before they progress into Stage 1. Swimmers may use aids, e.g. armbands, discs etc.

Puffin Award

Happy 1

Stage 1

Suitable for children who are of reception school age upwards. Developing basic safety awareness, the ‘class’ scenario, basic movement skills and water confidence.

Swimmers may use aids, e.g. armbands, discs etc

Puffin Award for new swimmers that have not done Ducklings

Happy 2

Stage 2

Developing safe entries to the water, including jumping in, basic floating, travel and rotation unaided to regain upright positions. Travel on front & back for 5m aided equipment

Swimmers can enter the stage using aids, e.g. armbands, discs etc but must leave this stage without aids.

Rainbow Distance 5M

Starter 3

Stage 3

Developing safe entries including submersion, travel up to 10 metres on front and back without aided equipment, progress rotation skills and water safety knowledge. No Aids (E.g. armbands/discs) to be used in this stage

Rainbow Distance 10M

8 + Youth Session

Covers stages 1, 2, and 3 for older children **Please note that this session is not available at all centres – Please ask at reception for more details**

Stage 1, 2 & 3

Rainbow Distance 5m and 10m

Starter 4

Stage 4

Developing the understanding of buoyancy through a range of skills, refining kicking technique for all strokes and swimming 5 metres Front crawl and Back crawl to a given standard as directed by the ASA.

Rainbow STROKE 5M Front crawl

Rainbow STROKE 5M Back crawl Preliminary Water Safety Award

Main 5

Stage 5a

Developing ‘watermanship’ through sculling and treading water skills, and complete rotation. Stage 5 has been split into two sub stages on the Strokes for Life programme to aid progression and retention as swimmers may be in this stage for 2 terms or more.

Rainbow Distance 25M

Rainbow STROKE 5M Breaststroke

Rainbow STROKE 5M Butterfly

Main 5

Stage 5b

Refining skills and performing all strokes 10 metres to the given standard as directed by the ASA.

Rainbow STROKE 10M Front crawl

Rainbow STROKE 10M Backstroke

Rainbow STROKE 10M Breaststroke

Rainbow STROKE 10M Butterfly

Main 5/6

Stage 6

Developing effective swimming skills including coordinated breathing; developing the water safety aspects and understanding of preparation for exercise.

Rainbow Distance 50M

Level 1 Personal Survival

Correct 7/8

Stage 7

Developing a quality stroke technique up to 100metres, incorporating skills learnt and combining them to develop a linked routine and complete successfully an obstacle course that combines a variety of skills accomplished throughout stages 1-7

Rainbow Distance 100M

Rainbow STROKE 25M Front crawl

Rainbow STROKE 25M Backstroke

Rainbow Stroke 25M Breaststroke

Rainbow Stroke 25M Butterfly

Level 2 Personal Survival

Supreme 9/10 / Junior Coaching

Competitive Stage’s 8,9 & 10

Advanced swimmers greater distances of 400m+, learning swimming development skills such as turns, starts, relay takeovers. Development stage progression to swimming club (one hour lesson)

Swimming Challenge – bronze, silver, gold and honours used as contrasting activities.

School Speed Awards

Swimming Stroke Awards

Competitive Swimming Performance Awards

Multi Aquatic Stage’s 8, 9 & 10

Suitable for swimmers that have completed stage 7 and would like to try other aquatic disciplines. Sessions will include a mixture of synchronised swimming, water polo and diving (**Not available at all centres – please ask at reception**)



Suitable for swimmers that have completed stage 7. The Royal Lifesaving Society UK, the leading provider for Water Safety education, rescue techniques and resuscitation, has developed the Rookie Lifeguard programme. As well as offering parents the comfort of knowing their children are aware the dangers of swimming in open water, the Bronze, Silver and Gold stage awards ensure children have a solid safety education, and have learned rescue and resuscitation techniques.

Rookie has 3 stages: Bronze, Silver and Gold which are subdivided into 3 modules.

Children’s Lessons

Children develop at their own pace, so whether you opt for inexpensive group lessons or one-to-one tuition, Strokes for life will help your child reach their full potential.

Throughout the Strokes for life programme, pupils work towards achieving badges and certificates. They can also work for specific awards in distance, survival and water safety. Stickers are available for purchase at reception and can be displayed on the Progress Award Card

Any child on a Strokes course can swim for free at any city council pool, as often as they like.

Adult Lessons

Adults can also learn to swim or improve their technique with Strokes for life. Adults on a Strokes for life course can swim for free at any council-run pool.

Choosing the right course

The table above should help you to identify the ideal class for you or your child. Each leisure centre has its own timetable – please check for details. Once you have selected the most suitable class, along with your preferred day and time, complete an application form at your local swimming pool.

If you or your child has any illness or specific needs, please advise reception at the time of booking. This will not affect your booking in any way.

Booking a Course

Strokes for life swimming lessons run quarterly throughout the year. Each course lasts for 12 weeks, with a break for Easter and Christmas and many pools offer additional short courses during school holidays.

When you, or your child, join a course, you will need a Leisure Card. To book a course, you will need to go to your local leisure centre and complete an application form. Check at your local centre for the start date of the next course and the days and times when lessons are on offer. Prices are available from your local swimming pool.

You will also be entitled to priority re-enrolment on any subsequent courses. Re-enrolment takes place during weeks 8, 9 and 10. Please make sure you enrol on your next course in good time to ensure your place. Please bring your Leisure Card at the time of enrolling.

All those booked on a course can swim for free during general swimming sessions.

Disabled People

Disabled people can access our mainstream Strokes for life swimming lessons. These classes are suitable for disabled people and those with learning disabilities. Please contact reception to discuss your needs and we will make reasonable adjustments to accommodate your needs.

For further advice or information, please contact your local swimming pool.