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STAting the Facts: STA Award in Pool Lifeguarding

Posted on 19th January 2024

Part One for Leisure Operators

With a New Year upon us and career opportunities a plenty in lifeguarding, Helen Done, STA’s Qualifications and Business Development Manager, STAtes the facts about pool lifeguard training and answers the most FAQs about the STA Award in Pool Lifeguarding qualification, including how during this time of a national workforce shortage, leisure operators can also directly benefit from their employees holding this qualification.

First, what does Health and Safety law specify around pool lifeguard training?
Health and Safety law does not prescribe any particular training course or qualifications for lifeguards. However, they must be competent to carry out their duties, meaning they must have the necessary knowledge, skills, and experience to do the job properly.

What is the best way to demonstrate competence?
Possessing an up-to-date qualification in lifeguarding / poolside supervision, recognised by a national qualification awarding body, such as Safety Training Awards (STA) is the best way to demonstrate an acceptable level of competence. STA is stated within HSE Health and Safety in swimming pools (HSG179) as being able to provide information on suitable lifeguard training. The STA Award in Pool Lifeguarding is also listed on the governments National Careers Service website as one of the qualifications that can be gained to work as a pool lifeguard.

What does the qualification cover?
The STA Pool Lifeguarding qualification has been designed in consultation with the leisure industry to give learners the knowledge, understanding and skills that are needed to provide constant poolside supervision of a swimming pool and working within the leisure industry. It is designed to train learners in pool rescue, CPR techniques, first aid and dealing with poolside emergencies in accordance with National Occupational Standards, Managing Health and Safety in Swimming Pools, British Standard BS EN 15288 Part 2 Safety Requirements for Operations, and is endorsed against the CIMSPA Employer Led Professional Standards – Pool Lifeguard.

What qualifications are accepted in the industry to work as a pool lifeguard?
The agreed industry prerequisite to become a lifeguard is for learners to have achieved a CIMSPA endorsed educational product that fully meets the CIMSPA Professional Standard: Lifeguard. STA Award in Pool Lifeguarding qualification fully meets this professional standard and is therefore an agreed industry accepted qualification for pool lifeguards to hold in order to gain employment anywhere in the UK. STA was also one of the organisations that contributed to the development of the CIMSPA Professional Standard: Lifeguard to ensure the STA Award in Pool Lifeguarding fully meets the needs of employers and is a professional, robust and fit for purpose qualification.

Is the qualification regulated?
Yes. The STA Award in Pool Lifeguarding is regulated by The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) in England at level 2 (equivalent to GCSE – grades 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4) and accredited by SQA Accreditation in Scotland at SCQF Level 6. This means that learners and employers can be confident of the standards within STA Award in Pool Lifeguarding qualification. It is also pitched at the appropriate educational level for the minimum age pre-requisite to undertake the qualification (16 years+).

Does the qualification incorporate the First Aid at Work syllabus and what are the benefits?
STA Award in Pool Lifeguarding includes the First Aid at Work syllabus and is consequently also recognised by the First Aid Awarding Organisation Forum as an acceptable equivalent to the First Aid at Work qualification. The benefits of this for leisure operators, is that their employees do not need to undertake an additional course of instruction to obtain a First Aid at Work certificate. They simply need to have been registered on an STA First Aid at Work course alongside an STA Pool Lifeguarding course in order for them to gain an additional First Aid at Work certificate – and they can do this for as little as £1.25 with no additional course time requirements.

How long is the qualification valid for?
The STA Award in Pool Lifeguarding is valid for 3 years. This also uniquely aligns with the revalidation period of First Aid at Work which can significantly help with time and cost savings for learners, approved training centres and employers. In fact, many of our customers as you will see below have stated this as a key reason for using STA’s pool lifeguarding qualification in their leisure facilities due to the savings.

Does the course cover backboards?
In accordance with HSG179, the use of backboards is down to individual pool operator risk assessment. As not all pool operators will require this element, backboards are not included within our lifesaving qualifications. We do however provide a Backboard CPD to support pool operators who do require a programme of training should their risk assessment identify the need to provide suitable aquatic pool extraction boards. This provides flexibility of training depending on individual pool operator / learner needs.

With STA, how many hours of ongoing training are lifeguards expected to do over a 3-year period?
STA require lifeguards to complete 24 hours ongoing training over the 3-year period in order to be eligible to be entered straight into a revalidation assessment. HSG 179 no longer stipulates that lifeguard training has to be conducted every month, therefore employers can now pre-plan in advance and organise at times that suit the needs of the leisure facility – this might be bi-monthly or even quarterly over the 3-year period.

What content needs to be covered within ongoing training?
Over the 3-year period lifeguards must cover the qualification syllabus, however, it is down to the employer to set which topics are covered when. This flexible approach also allows employers to tailor the training to suit their facility procedures and requirements. STA provides supporting resources for the delivery and recording of ongoing training.

Who can deliver the ongoing training?
A competent person can deliver the ongoing training. “A competent person is someone who has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities that allow them to assist you properly. The level of competence required will depend on the complexity of the situation and the particular help you need.”

What is the revalidation process and how much does it cost?

In order to revalidate, STA lifeguards will need to:

  • Hold an in-date STA Pool Lifeguard qualification
  • Have their own STA Pool Lifeguard resource manual
  • Have a minimum of 24 training hours within the last 36 months covering the complete STA pool lifeguard syllabus
  • Have an STA lifesaving tutor review all of the above before undertaking the external practical assessment and theory multi-choice assessment paper.

The financial outcome is the responsibility of the approved training centre. STA do not recommend prices however you will find STA’s manual and revalidation fees here.

An employee’s pool lifeguard qualification has expired. How can they regain their pool lifeguarding qualification?
If they have training hours which cover the whole pool lifeguard syllabus and their qualification has expired within 1 calendar month, they may complete a revalidation assessment as above. If they have no training hours or their qualification expired over 1 calendar month ago, they will need to complete a new pool lifeguarding course.

What is the difference between the standard of STA’s Pool Lifeguarding qualification and a CIMSPA endorsed pool lifeguard qualification from other Awarding Organisations?
Nothing! If a pool lifeguarding qualification has been CIMSPA endorsed against the Professional Standard: Lifeguarding like STA’s Award in Pool Lifeguarding has, then it meets the agreed industry accepted qualification standards for pool lifeguards to hold in order to gain employment anywhere in the UK.

I have an employee who holds a CIMSPA endorsed pool lifeguard qualification from another Awarding Organisation. How can they gain the STA Pool Lifeguarding qualification and how much does it cost?
They will need a minimum of 25 training hours, covering the complete STA pool lifeguarding syllabus before an STA Lifesaving Tutor will test their skills and organise an assessment. They will need to be registered as a learner on a conversion course. If they do not have enough training hours, they can apply for recognition of prior learning (RPL) to attend an STA pool lifeguarding course with potentially reduced contact hours. The financial outcome is the responsibility of the approved training centre. STA do not recommend prices however you will find STAs manual and conversion / registration fees here.

Our in-house tutors are currently a trainer for another Awarding Organisation, how do they become an STA lifesaving tutor?
They will need to attend the one-day Lifesaving Tutor conversion course. The pre-requisites for this are:

  • Be 19 years of age or older
  • Hold current membership of STA
  • Hold a Pool Lifeguard or Pool Emergency Responder qualification or acceptable equivalent
  • Hold a regulated Level 3 First Aid at Work qualification or acceptable equivalent if wishing to apply for the FAW suite
  • Hold the RLSS Trainer / Assessor status. They must be a fully qualified trainer with RLSS to attend this conversion course
  • Have occupational experience. This must be submitted via C.V of evidence which must include a minimum of 2 pool lifeguard courses delivered and a minimum of 2 pool lifeguard assessments conducted.

If you had to summarise the main benefits of STA’s Pool Lifeguarding Qualification for leisure operators, what would you say?

  • Regulated by Ofqual and accredited by SQA Accreditation
  • Endorsed against the agreed industry CIMSPA Professional Standard: Lifeguard
  • Quality assured courses ensuring the highest standards of delivery
  • Includes the First Aid at Work syllabus and is a recognised equivalent First Aid at Work qualification saving time and money
  • Recognised nationally and internationally so there are opportunities for employment in the UK and abroad if learners wanted to take advantage of travelling with their qualification and potentially earn as they explore
  • Access to STA technical and digital support
  • Access to an extensive range of continuing professional development (CPD) programmes to support leisure industry professionals with updating their knowledge and skills after gaining their qualifications
  • Access to a broad range of exclusive resources and discounts for members
  • Quality supporting resources for the delivery and recording of ongoing training
  • Competitive prices and flexible delivery.

But don’t just take our word for it …

Virgin Active! With STA aligning its Pool Lifeguard revalidation process with First Aid at Work, Virgin Active will also be able to create a more robust 3-year competency plan and for the first time, each club will have the flexibility to organise on-going refresher lifeguard training at a time that suits their needs, and with minimum disruption to customers. This planned approach will create huge time and cost-saving efficiencies across the business, and with STA’s Level 2 qualifications being endorsed by CIMSPA, we know they are of the highest quality too, and meet our needs as an employer.”

GetActiveABC “Partnering with STA and becoming an ATC will provide many long-term benefits. It will transform how we manage and deliver Pool Lifeguard and First Aid renewals and training across all our Indoor Leisure sites – in line with our workforce needs and, crucially, with minimum disruption to customers. With STA’s qualifications being endorsed by CIMSPA, we also know our lifeguards will be trained to the highest standards.”

Teignbridge Leisure “The 3-year revalidation played a crucial part in our decision to take on STA’s Pool Lifeguard qualification. It enables a more streamlined revalidation process with other qualifications such as First Aid at Work, which makes perfect industry sense and will save time and money. We also know that with STA’s qualifications being mapped to the CIMSPA Professional Standard and regulated by Ofqual, our lifeguards will be trained to the highest standards – and in line with the role of a modern lifeguard.”

Glasgow Life “With STA, the requirement for 24 training hours over a 3-year period in order to revalidate makes industry-sense, and it means our workforce will have more time to concentrate on other key areas … and with STA’s qualifications being endorsed by CIMSPA, we know our lifeguards will be trained to the highest standards.”

For further information on the STA Award in Pool Lifeguarding please contact us via or call us on 01922 645097, and if you want to promote all the benefits of becoming a pool lifeguard, please share our career guide here

The next blog in this series will be for ATCs / Tutors / Learners wanting to deliver / obtain the STA Award in Pool Lifeguarding.

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