Swimming stages and awards

Swimming stages and awards

Our swimming programs are based on teaching 16 stages of competence in pool or calm water environments. We also offer 15 stages of competence at surf centres.

It is important to indicate a stage when enrolling. Children are reviewed on the first day of class to confirm their placement in the appropriate stage, however do not rely on this review.

If your children are participating in Interm Swimming after enrolments close, anticipate a pass in this program and enrol in the next stage for VacSwim.

You can make changes to the stage in WAIVS at any time prior to enrolments closing or at the venue on late enrolment day.

Stage 15 classes at surf centres and stage 16 classes (Bronze Medallion) at calm water/pool venues are conducted as double lessons.

The following age restrictions apply:

  • children who have turned 12 years old before the start of the program may enrol in stage 15 at designated surf centres
  • children who have turned 14 years old, or will be turning 14 years in the same calendar year of the course, may enrol in stage 16 (Bronze Medallion) at calm water/pool venues.

Pool or calm water

All our programs are based on teaching 16 stages of competence in pool or calm water environments in accordance with:

  • the Department of Education Swimming and Water Safety Continuum (stages 1 to 9)
  • Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) personal survival (stages 10 to 12)
  • Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) rescue awards (stages 13 to 16).

For the Interm Swimming program, stages 1 to 15 only are offered at pool venues.

Surf centres

The skill progression in surf differs slightly to calm water because of the variable conditions children and instructors encounter in this environment. At surf centres, stages 1 to 15 are offered (Stage 16 Bronze Medallion is only offered at calm water/pool venues). Higher stages at surf centres include content on advanced surf awareness, similar to surf clubs.

For the Interm Swimming program, stages 1 to 14 only are offered at surf centres.


Stage Title Guidelines for students entering the stage
1 Beginner None required
2 Water/surf discovery Glide forward and glide backward and recover to a stand.
3 Preliminary Swim 5m freestyle. Glide backward, kick and recover to a stand.
4 Water/surf intro awareness Swim 10m freestyle, face in water. Swim 5m breaststroke kick.
5 Water/surf sense Swim 15m freestyle, 10m backstroke and 10m survival backstroke.
6 Junior Swim 25m freestyle plus 15m breaststroke or 15m survival backstroke.
7 Intermediate Swim 50m freestyle, or freestyle and one other stroke, continuously.
8 Water/surf wise Capacity to swim effectively using a range of strokes over 150m.
9 Senior Capacity to swim effectively using a range of strokes over 200m.
10 Junior swim and survive/
surf stage 10
Effective swimming skills with a sound knowledge and understanding of water safety.
11 Swim and survive/ surf stage 11 Effective swimming skills with a developing knowledge and understanding of personal safety and survival skills.
12 Senior swim and survive /surf stage 12 Effective swimming skills including the ability to complete a clothed swim and a sound understanding of personal safety and survival skills.
13 Wade rescue/
surf stage 13
Sound swimming and personal survival skills, knowledge and understanding.
14 Accompanied rescue/
surf stage 14
Sound swimming and personal survival skills, and knowledge plus an understanding of non–contact rescues.
15 Bronze star/
surf stage 15
Sound knowledge and practice of water safety and non–contact rescue skills. Effective swimming skills in a range of strokes.
16 Bronze medallion Capacity to use initiative and conduct a contact rescue.
NB: Royal Life Saving Western Australia’s Swimming and Life Saving Manual is the preferred text for stage 16. Although not compulsory the Society strongly suggests that if purchasing a manual, do so before lessons commence. Purchase your copy from the Society by telephoning 9383 8200 or fax 9383 9922.
Stage 13–16 award fees waived

Children who complete Stages 13 to 16 through VacSwim or Interm Swimming lessons enjoy the benefit of having their award fees waived by Royal Life Saving Western Australia. This means these important higher awards cost the same for families as any other VacSwim or Interm Swimming lessons.

These changes remove barriers to ongoing participation in lifesaving awards, improve the program experience and provide added incentive for children striving to achieve their Bronze Medallion.

The Department of Education is pleased to have Royal Life Saving Western Australia as a supporter of our Swimming and Water Safety programs.

More information

For any queries about swimming stages and awards, please telephone 9402 6412 or email vacswim@education.wa.edu.au