A Griffith University research project will survey more than 10,000 swimming students in the world’s most comprehensive study into early-years swimming.

The joint project between Griffith University, Kids Alive Swim Program and Swim Australia aims to determine whether regular swimming contributes to the physical, social, cognitive and linguistic development of pre-school learners.

Project leader Professor Robyn Jorgensen from the Griffith Institute for Educational Research said anecdotal evidence found swimmers tended to be more confident with greater physical development than their same-age non-swimming peers.

“But this is the first detailed study to determine how much more advanced that development might be and why,” she said.

“The only large-scale study was in Germany in 1982, while more recent studies have been predominantly with learners with physical disabilities.

“Our study will monitor 10,000 students throughout Australia annually over four years.”

The study will identify key factors in swimming programs that enhance development, such as the number of lessons per week, age of child when commencing lessons and access to a home pool.

“Drowning is the highest cause of death in the under five age group, whether in pools, baths or water sources on properties, so we want to increase awareness of the importance of learning how to swim from an early age,” Professor Jorgensen said.

The study will also analyse at least one swimming program with observations of students in lessons and interviews with students, parents, and teachers.

“It will highlight the critical features of swimming programs that aid learning, as well as provide data regarding effective programs, which will then be given to our industry partners.”

More than 50 swim schools throughout Australia and overseas have already pledged over $80,000 per year over the four-year project.