Swimming pools on school property

A requirement of the Health and Physical Education Curriculum is that all school students are given the opportunity to learn fundamental aquatic skills by the end of Year 6.

While schools have to deliver swimming tuition, they do not have to have an on-site pool to do so. Schools without their own pools can transport students to community pools.

For information about funding for school pools, go to swimming pool funding.

Health and safety who is responsible?

Boards must ensure the health and safety of everyone using the pool with the board’s permission. This includes after school use by the school community.

Boards are required to follow best practice methods for the management of school swimming pools as set out from time to time by New Zealand Water Safety, and to comply with all relevant legislative provisions and accepted codes relating to water safety. Up to date information can be found at www.watersafety.org.nz.

Note: Outside school hours the board could still be held liable in court for harm to unauthorised pool users so boards are advised to have good security systems in place.

The responsibility for the health and safety of people where the pool is being used under a lease to someone other than the school must be defined in the lease agreement.  For example, a swim group would take responsibility for supervision and all other health and safety matters under the third party occupancy agreement.

Pool management

Rules for pool users

Boards must develop pool rules for safe use of the pool. This is required by the Health and Safety Code. Display the rules where they can be read by all pool users eg on a board beside the gate.  Some sample pool rules are:

  1. There must always be at least one swimming pool supervisor present when the pool is being used. Additional supervisors must be present as the number of people swimming increases.
  2. Children under eight-years-old must be actively supervised by a person at least 16-years-old who can give immediate help.
  3. Nobody is to swim alone.
  4. The pool supervisor must make sure the gate is always securely closed.
  5. Nobody is to swim while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  6. Check the depth of water before entering the pool.
  7. Check for hazards such as steep slopes into deeper water.
  8. No running, jumping, or diving into the pool.
  9. Avoid holding your breath and swimming long distances underwater.
  10. Return pool equipment to the storeroom.
  11. Boogie boards, surf boards, kayaks are not to be used in the pool.
  12. The first aid kit is stored in the ...
  13. The closest telephone for emergencies is located at ...

Pool management procedures

As well as displaying the pool rules, the board must have procedures for everything else relating to the pool. For example:

  1. Regularly check the operation and effectiveness of the gates and locks and replace any locks which stick or don’t close properly.
  2. Ensure the first-aid kit is accessible to pool users and regularly checked.
  3. Pool chemicals must be locked away from the swimming pool and changing rooms. They must be stored and disposed of according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Pool equipment must be stored when not in use as it can be a potential hazard if left lying around the pool. Do not store pool equipment in the same area as the pool chemicals, as this may enable unauthorised people to access hazardous and dangerous chemicals.
  5. Aquatic toys not designed for swimming pool use, such as boogie boards, are not allowed.
  6. Water quality must be managed in compliance with current standards.
  7. Consider security measures to prevent unauthorised use of the pool during and after school hours.

Control of swimming pool water quality

School pools are classified as public pools in the NZS 5826:2010 - Pool Water Quality. NZS 5826:2010 is accepted throughout the country as a recognised benchmark in pool water quality.

The objective of NZS 5826:2010 is to ensure that swimming pool water is maintained to safe chemical and microbiological levels to:

  • protect bathers from unsafe bacteria
  • safeguard bathers against chemical burns 
  • minimise the damage to the pool and associated equipment.

NZS 5826:2010 requires

  1. A filtration system that can cope with the treatment regime in the Standard.
  2. Regular testing of the water, including monthly microbiological monitoring. This testing cannot be carried out by the school and requires pool water samples to be sent away to laboratories specialising in water treatment. Contact your local council Environmental Health Office to find out about testing services or the location of the nearest testing laboratory.
  3. Avoiding overuse by pool users - on a hot day, loss of chlorine through high ultra violet levels, and overuse as class after class take to the pool, results in degradation of the water and health risk for pool users. NZS 5826:2010 provides the desired values for the correct pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness, freely available chlorine, total chlorine and other features that make up the pool chemistry.
  4. Appropriate action to be taken in the event of a faecal discharge or a diarrhoea incident in the pool, which has the potential to introduce giardia or cryptosporidium to pool water.
  5. The water treatment systems to be carried out by someone with NZQA unit standards in swimming pool water quality.
  6. Pool water quality management to be under the continuous technical supervision of a qualified person who is readily accessible when the pool is operating. Readily accessible does not mean the qualified person must be at the pool at all times – just available if needed.
  7. The safe handling and storage of potentially unstable and explosive pool chemicals.

Water testing

Water must be tested three times a day - most likely to be before school, at lunchtime and after school. Regular testing checks that the pool maintains the correct pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness, chlorine and other features that make up the pool chemistry.

This testing must be carried out by a qualified person. This will usually be someone at the school, such as the caretaker, who holds an appropriate unit standard. A unit standard is a national standard developed by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). In particular Unit Standard 20046 has been designed for school caretakers and is the recommended minimum training to achieve the Water Quality Standard NZS 5826:2010.

There are a number of training providers offering training in the unit standards. Have a look at the NZQA list of education organisations or search the internet. Some of these providers will arrange training at locations to suit schools. Most of the courses are one or two days.

The Ministry suggests that schools cluster for the purposes of arranging training.

Some schools have an agreement with their local council for testing services.

Training and testing is funded through the school’s operational funding.

Filtration requirements

NZS 5826:2010 (Appendix A) recommends a two-hour water turnover rate. If your current filtration system cannot achieve this, you need to upgrade the filtration system. The operation of swimming pool mechanical plant is covered by NZS 4441:2008 Swimming pool design.

Boards should discuss with the manufacturer the best method of cleaning their filtration system. Dropcoating, the process of coating a liquid drop with a material, is not recommended practice in NZS 5826:2010. Dropcoating may not clean the filters satisfactorily in some systems.

Who will monitor compliance with NZS 5826:2000?

The Environmental Health Officer at the local council is the most likely person to assess whether the school is complying with NZS 5826:2010. In some areas of the country, local councils are helping schools to develop good management practices.

Changing rooms

The board is required to provide changing rooms with properly closing doors, adequate lighting, places to store clothing and walls without holes or broken windows. There must be toilets within the pool enclosure.

Warm showers are recommended but are not mandatory.

Fences for school swimming pools

Fencing of swimming pools must meet a number of legal requirements in the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 and The Building Code.

Community use of school pools

It is common for school pools to be used by the community, for example school families or local swim groups. Any arrangement to allow non-school (third party) use of the pool must meet the requirements of the Third Party Occupancy policy which includes agreements to protect the interests of the board, the Ministry and the people using the pool.

Three types of agreements apply:

  • Casual use agreement - where community use of the pool is periodic and not exclusive, such as a swim group.
  • Lease of the site - where a council or community body wishes to build an aquatic centre on a school site which it will own and allow the school to use it.
  • Shared use licence to occupy - where a school and another group jointly funds the pool and both groups use it.

These agreements must cover:

  • the contribution of the community users towards pool maintenance and operating expenses
  • the times when the pool is available to the school and community users
  • responsibilities for supervision and all other health and safety matters
  • the costs of upgrades, maintenance and operating expenses which are usually shared proportionately based on how much the school and community each contributed to the building costs.

Content last updated: 21 May 2015