Personal Buoyancy - Staying Afloat


  • Float, then regain feet
  • Control breathing while floating on back for at least 1 minute
  • Scull headfirst and/or scull feet first for at least 3 minutes
  • Tread water for at least 3 minutes in deep water
  • Perform this sequence: in deep water, correctly fit a lifejacket then tread water, scull, float or a mixture for 3 minutes while controlling breathing. Then return to edge and get out of the water
  • Perform this sequence for 5 minutes: signal for help while treading water, sculling, floating, or a mixture, 


Students should: 

  • Be able to float in any body position (such as vertical or horizontal, curved, rolled). The emphasis is on balance and control with the transition
  • Be able to control their breathing to recover, manage fear and be ready to plan decisions and actions
  • Understand the difficulty of putting a lifejacket on in the water and be encouraged to wear lifejackets on all boats at all times
  • Be able to switch between treading water, sculling and floating as needed

Some more information

The first skill in this set would be assessed as achieved once the student can float calmly (in any position that suits their body type – for example curved, rolled, vertical or horizontal) and then regain their feet. It’s also important they understand how moving their hands and head can adjust their position in the water.

Relaxed and regular breathing for at least one minute while floating on their back would earn the student an achieved for the second skill.

Sculling can be assessed as achieved once the student can move in any direction for at least three minutes. If the student is not able to scull for three minutes or is not yet performing the hand movement while floating, they should be assessed as not yet achieved.

For treading water, a student would be assessed as achieved when they are able to tread and keep their head above water for three minutes in deep water. If they have not yet had the opportunity in deep water or if they’re not yet able to tread consistently for three minutes they should receive a not yet achieved assessment.  Please note treading water is a ‘starred’ skill (at least one starred skill must be included in the final testing of a student’s water skills competence).

The final two skills relate to personal buoyancy and require a series of movements to be performed in sequence. Each of these sequences would be assessed as achieved when a student can do this confidently. If a student is still learning the skills individually they would be assessed as not yet achieved. Please note these sequences are examples of what a student could choose to do on their own when they are demonstrating their overall competency.

See How to check whether students are competent in water safety - Fundamental water safety

Supporting Video

Example skills were filmed in a 1m deep pool.
For more useful video links, see our multimedia page

Top Tip

Once a student is competent at treading water, get them to tread water for longer and/or while wearing clothes.


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