One of the items raised in the Customer Questionnaire that we issued at the end of last year was that a number of you did not understand how the award system that we run works. I must admit, it can be rather confusing and I hope that after you read this brief summary you will understand the workings of it a little better!  Here goes …..


Dolphin Club is a member of the two main swimming bodies in the UK, the STA (Swimming Teachers Association) and the ASA (the Amateur Swimming Association).  

Although we do support both of these organisations, we follow the STA Learn to Swim Programme partly due to the fact that the STA is a charity and also that the STA leans towards water safety, which is one of the main objectives of our swimming club.  

Both the award schemes are very similar but rather than categorising a child by being at a specific level and therefore almost labelling their swimming ability, we would rather just say they have reached a certain award whilst gaining water confidence and skills.

The award system starts with the Starfish series, from Starfish 1 through to 6.  The Starfish programme is for all our lovely baby and toddlers aged 6months to 36months.  This is baby’s first taste of lessons with their mum or dad, or with both mum and dad!  

Once a toddler has reached the age of 3 years and can go into the water on their own without a parent they start on the Stanley Series of awards.  In fact, all our children aged 3 upwards and non swimmers start on these awards.  These run through from Stanley 1 through to Stanley 7, by which time they will have learned to swim at least 10m and have learnt various swimming skills.

On the chart you will see the next set of awards in the series is set of 3 Octopus Awards. These are designed for the slightly older non swim 5 to 8 year olds but a little less comprehensive than the Stanley awards, therefore we tend to use the Stanley series regardless of the age of the child.

Following on from the Stanley series is Goldfish 1 through to 3.  This is the stage where you will notice the instructors looking a little more at stroke technique and breathing, and we are looking for the children to be swimming at least between 10 and 15m.

Next step is the Angelfish series, again 1 through to 3.  We are looking at 20 – 25m. Swimmers at this stage are swimming all strokes, correct breathing, and not forgetting swimming skills!

Last but not least is the Shark series.  Again 3 parts to the series. This is an advanced swimming series including survival techniques and at the end of the series a swimmer would be expected to swim at least 100m.

We are looking at these children ending their swimming time with us and moving on to swimming club.

We also have ‘distance’ awards that start at 5m through to 200m and these are also awarded through the year.  (Anything over 10m must show both correct breathing and stroke).

However, and this is a really big however…………….

In theory this is great but in reality it can sometimes work out quite differently!  You may have a child who has jumped 2 levels as they may have adapted to the skills very easily.  You may have a child who may need another term just to be able to perform all the skills required in an award more comfortably or who has found it difficult to swim a required distance to reach an award.  On the other hand you may have a child who can swim in excess of the desired distance but not quite so good with the skills, and the combinations go on!!!  

Also, all of our instructors may interpret the syllabus slightly differently, although we do try really hard to be consistent!

At the end of the day we are happy if the children we teach are water confident and happy and progressing regardless of the award they have or have not achieved.  The award system is designed to be an incentive to encourage and show progressive improvement at all levels.

If you would like a comprehensive list of the skills required in each of the awards, drop me an email (swim [at] dolphinswimmingclub [dot] com), I would be happy to get these to you!

I do hope this helps but please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions or queries.