Frequently Asked Questions on Pool Lifeguarding

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Created on Friday, 25 August 2006

If you have any general questions about becoming a pool lifeguard please look through our FAQs first before contacting us.

Can anyone come on the course?
Do I have to be a world class swimmer?
How is the course structured?
I have a hearing disability - can I take the NPLQ?
Do I need 20/20 vision to take the NPLQ?
How difficult is the exam?
What happens if I can't attend some sessions, or the final exam?
Do I have to sit a full course if I already hold other lifesaving / lifeguard awards?
What do I get out of it?
What S/NVQ units does the pool lifeguard qualification count towards?
Will I get a job at the end of it?
What will it cost me?
How long is the qualification valid?
Who does the training?
Can I work on a beach with a Pool Lifeguard Qualification?
I'm a beach lifeguard - do I need the Pool Lifeguard Qualification to work in a pool?
I am already a Pool Lifeguard but need to renew my qualification
What happens after the course has finished?

Can anyone come on the course?
You must be 16 years old or over to attend the course. There is no upper age limit for attendance on the course as long as you meet the fitness criteria.

If you're too young to do the pool lifeguard course at the moment, you can still be involved! NSVL runs lifesaving classes at the pool session on Sunday evening. As soon as you're 16 you'll be able to come on the course - and you'll already have learnt a lot of the skills needed!
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Do I have to be a world class swimmer?
As long as you are a competent swimmer this should be enough. Applicants will be swim tested before the course and will be expected to swim 100m on their front and 100m on their back continuously, followed by treading water for 30 seconds. There is no time limit for the initial swim.
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How is the course structured?
The structure depends on who is running the course and the length of sessions, but generally a typical session might include:

  • Pool Lifeguard theory training
  • Pool rescue skills
  • Spinal Cord Injury Management (SCIM)
  • Life Support resuscitation skills
  • First Aid training

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I have a hearing disability - can I take the NPLQ?
Yes, provided that you are able to communicate effectively without necessarily having face-to-face contact (such as would be the case when giving CPR). NO SPECIAL PROVISION CAN BE MADE, EITHER DURING TRAINING OR ASSESSMENT.
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Do I need 20/20 vision to take the NPLQ?
If you wear spectacles or contact lenses then as long as you can function in a rescue situation efficiently without them then this should not pose a problem. For example, you are not allowed to wear goggles during the assessment so if you wear contact lenses then you would have to make sure you could function without them. NO SPECIAL PROVISION CAN BE MADE, EITHER DURING TRAINING OR ASSESSMENT.
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How difficult is the exam?
The assessment will test your learning, practical skills and ability to think and act clearly in all the main areas (Life Support, First Aid, Theory, Pool rescue skills). There are two timed swim/tows of no more than 40m in the assessment. The resuscitation and Spinal Cord Injury Management skills are perhaps the most technical, but you will have plenty of time to practise.
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What happens if I can't attend some sessions?

This must be discussed with the trainer. You have to complete at least 31 hours contact time with the trainer for unit 1 and 7 hours for unit 2, except where exempt (see below). Usually you will have to attend all sessions.
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Do I have to sit a full course if I already hold other lifesaving / lifeguard awards?

A number of awards and qualifications are recognised as approved prior learning and can reduce the minimum training time required. This is only possible where it will not disrupt the course or disadvantage other candidates and is therefore at the discretion of the trainer.

Exemptions may apply to holders of the following awards and qualifications [guided learning time credits are shown in brackets]:

  • Current RLSS UK Bronze Medallion or higher award (inc Beach Lifeguard) [12 hours]
  • Current HSE-approved First Aid at Work certificate [6 hours]
  • Current RLSS UK Life Support 3 award [3 hours]
  • Current STA NARS (PL) Qualification [12 hours]

The maximum accreditation for prior learning that may be claimed is 12 hours in total.
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What do I get out of it?
You get out as much as you put in. Hopefully you will be taught skills for life to save life. You should come out of the course with the ability to know how to help - not just in a lifeguarding context but in any life-threatening situation you come across.

While saving lives is a serious business, you should also have a lot of fun on the course and the qualification you receive at the end is excellent for university applications and CVs and can also count towards a number of S/NVQ units (see below).
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What S/NVQ units does the pool lifeguard qualification count towards?

If you are participating in the S/NVQ programme, you will already know that you must demonstrate competence against a set of criteria to complete a unit of an S/NVQ.  The National Pool Lifeguard Qualification has been developed to meet the crieria set down in Sport Recreation and Allied Occupations, Operational Services S/NVQ Level 2:

  • C22: Promote safety in the sport and activity environment
  • A52: Contribute to the work of your team
  • C12: Set up, take down and store equipment
  • C28: Maintain the safety of swimming pool users
Element Performance Criteria
 Range
 C22.2 1, 2, 3, 4
 A2    
 C22.3 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
 A1, A2, A3
 B1, B2 C1, C2, C3, C4
 
 C22.4 6,7 A1, A2, A3   
 A52.1 6 A1, A2, A3 B1, B2
  
 A52.2 6, 7
 A3   
 C12.1  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
 A2, A4
   
 C28.1  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
 A1/2, A3, A4, A5 B1, B2, B3, B4
  
 C28.2
  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
 A1/2, A3, A4, A5 B1, B2, B3, B4 C1, C2, C3, C4, C5
 C1, C2, C3
 C28.3  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
 A1, A2, A3, A4, A5
 B1, B2, B3, B4 C1, C2, C3  

In completing your S/NVQ portfolio, you need to gather evidence to show that you have been assessed against the criteria making up the above units.  It is through training that you gather underpinning knowledge for the S/NVQ units.  Your trainer can sign your training record.

In addition to this, once you have completed your training, you will need to be assessed for the National Pool Lifeguard Qualification.  On completion of the whole qualification, you will be issued with your certificate which forms part of the evidence and should be kept in a safe place with a copy being insrted into your S/NVQ portfolio.
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Will I get a job at the end of it?
There are always opportunities for casual and full time employment in swimming pools across the country from age 16, and the National Pool Lifeguard Qualification is the minimum qualification required.

For young adults gaining the qualification is excellent for university applications or CVs and can lead to part time employment while you complete your studies.

Lifeguards can expect to earn from £5.00-£7.50 per hour depending on the area. In some cases, extra enhancements will apply for shift and weekend work.

Qualifying through NSVL and participating in ongoing training once the course finishes means you are in a perfect position to apply for jobs.
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What will it cost me?
Costs of the course vary according to the provider.
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How long is the qualification valid?
The qualification is valid for 2 years from the assessment date. Over this period you should continue regular training and you will be welcome to train with NSVL throughout the year. This training can be logged so that you have the number of hours required when you need to retake the qualification after the two year period.
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Who does the training?
You will be trained by experienced RLSS Pool Lifeguard Trainers and then assessed by an independent Assessor.
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Can I work on a beach with a Pool Lifeguard Qualification?
No, the Beach and Pool Lifeguard Qualifications are two separate courses, though if you take the Pool Lifeguard course you will already have acquired a lot of the knowledge needed for Beach Lifeguard Qualification.
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I'm a beach lifeguard - do I need to take the Pool Lifeguard Qualification to work in a pool?
Yes, though you should already be familiar with a lot of the skills.
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I am already a Pool Lifeguard but need to renew my qualification
Then come along! We train every Saturday evening from 6.30-7.30pm at Tynemouth Pool. Hours can be logged and assessments arranged when needed. See the Ongoing Training page for details of the training rota.
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What happens after the course has finished?
When you have successfully completed your assessment for Unit 1 and Unit 2 you will receive a pink copy of your assessment form, which acts as your proof of qualification until you certificate and qualification card is sent out to you through the post (usually within 1 month).

The end of the course is not the end of your training. All lifeguards must complete regular training in all knowledge and skills to keep their qualification current. This training must be at least 20 hours in the 2 year validation of your qualification. Ongoing training is essential if you are to refresh, develop and extend your skills. NSVL runs ongoing training throughout the year every Sunday at Whitley Bay. If you have attended training after becoming qualified it looks good if you apply for a job as a lifeguard.

As well as ongoing training, as a member you will also get the opportunity to attend other related courses such as Beach Lifeguard, First Aid at Work and Extended Life Support (use of defibrillators). In the future you may also want to become a teacher or trainer yourself!

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