National Pool Lifeguard Course (NPLQ 8th Edition)

National Pool Lifeguard Qualification

The RLSS UK National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ) is the most awarded lifeguard qualification in the United Kingdom and Ireland that complies with the industry guidance contained within the HSE publication ‘Managing Health and Safety in Swimming Pools’ Generally, the NPLQ is a recruitment requirement for a number of jobs from Pool Lifeguard to Centre Manager. On successful completion of the course you will be fully qualified to work as a Pool Lifeguard.

The RLSS UK NPLQ is not just a qualification it can be a stepping stone into a career within the leisure industry.

The NPLQ and associated courses are administered by IQL UK Ltd, a trading subsidiary of the Royal Life Saving Society.

The NPLQ course duration is 38 hours and is split over 2 units; Unit 1 The Principles of Lifesaving and Swimming Pool Supervision and Unit 2 The Application of Supervision and Rescue in a Swimming Pool. The NPLQ is awarded upon successful completion of both units.

The course comprises of physical training and theoretical classroom work, followed by a practical in-water and out-of-water assessment on pool rescue, first aid, CPR and lifesaving skills.

The qualification is internationally recognised and is incorporated on the Qualifications Framework at Level 2. The NPLQ is valid for 2 years from the date of issue and a further 20 hours of ongoing training and competency assessment must be completed before a lifeguard can renew their qualification prior to the expiry of their existing award.


Benefits of becoming a lifeguard

We think there are loads of great reasons why you’d want to become a lifeguard and we guess you must think it’s a pretty good idea too, which is why you are here…

Reasons why we think you’d love it…

  • First and foremost you are providing an amazing public service. You will without a doubt make people feel confident, happier and safer just by being on the poolside and you could potentially save a life.
  • Being a lifeguard offers a fantastic foundation to a career in the leisure industry. Many senior managers began their rise to leisure stardom by lifeguarding at their local pools.
  • The opportunity to get fit. Not only will you have to have a basic level of fitness to become a lifeguard but you will be encouraged to stay fit and get fitter. Many pools will give their lifeguards discounted or even free memberships.
  • You get to work with a team of like minded people, so there’s plenty of opportunity to increase your social circle!
  • The hours are flexible and perfect for those of you who need to fit studying into your busy days.
  • If you’re a competitive type there is plenty of opportunity to show off your lifeguarding talents in annual events such as the National Pool Lifeguard Championships (team event) and the Lifeguard Triathlon.
  • If you find you really enjoy lifeguarding you can take it up as a competitive sport and compete regularly for your local club.
  • Lastly but still very importantly, you will gain a life skill that will come in handy for the rest of your life that could lead to enhanced career progression and a stepping stone to the National Pool Management Qualification (NPMQ).


RLSS UK NPLQ Course Content

Pre Requisites

Every candidate, prior to commencement of training for the NPLQ must:

  • Be 16 years of age;
  • Be able to meet the following basic fitness criteria:-
  • Jump / dive into deep water
  • Swim 50 metres in less than 60 seconds
  • Swim 100 metres continuously on front and back in deep water.
  • Tread water for 30 seconds
  • Surface dive to the floor of the pool
  • Climb out unaided without ladder / steps and where the pool design permits



Training and assessment for the NPLQ is in two units and both must be successfully passed to attain the NPLQ. It is widely accepted that Unit 1 and Unit 2 are delivered together.


Unit 1 – The Principles of Lifesaving and Swimming Pool Supervision

Element 1 Theory – The Principles of Pool Lifeguarding

Element 2 Water rescue skills, including times swim rescues, conscious and unconscious casualties

Element 3 Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) on adult, child and infant

Element 4 First Aid where you will demonstrate a knowledge of selected first aid conditions and advising on poolside treatment.

Unit 1: Training is provided by an RLSS UK Trainer/Assessor and assesses the candidate’s generic knowledge of and skills relating to the principles of lifesaving and swimming pool supervision.


Unit 2 – The Application of Supervision and Rescue in a Swimming Pool

Element 5 The Lifeguard, the Law, Regulations and Codes of Practice

Element 6 The Swimming Pool and the Role of the Lifeguard

Element 7 Normal Operating Plans

Element 8 Emergency Action Plans

Element 9 Provision and Use of Play Equipment in Swimming Pools

Element 10 Diving and Jumping in Swimming Pools

Element 11 Flumes, Waterslides and other Water Features in Swimming Pools.

Unit 2: Training is continually assessed by an Institute of Sport and Recreation Management (ISRM) Trainer/Assessor and addresses a candidate’s ability to apply the generic skills and knowledge to the swimming pool environment.


RLSS UK NPLQ Course Assessment

Assessment for Unit 1 takes place at the conclusion of a training course for a minimum of 31 hours for new candidates. It determines your knowledge and understanding of the principles of working as a pool lifeguard. Your ability is assessed in a range of lifesaving skills which enable you to deal with common emergency situations in pools.

The Unit 1 assessment is in four parts:

  • Practical pool assessment
  • Theory assessment
  • First aid assessment
  • CPR assessment


Unit 2 is continually assessed over a minimum 7 hours training. It determines your ability to apply the Unit 1 skills and knowledge in a work-related environment as they would apply in a swimming pool.

The National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ) is awarded upon successful completion of both units. You must successfully complete both Units of the assessment within a 6 month period. All elements of Unit 1 must be successfully assessed within a 28 day period, and for renewal candidates, within the period of validity of your existing qualification.


Renewal of the RLSS UK NPLQ

Renewal candidates may renew their qualification only within the period of validity of their existing qualification as stated on the insignia. Candidates may only renew the qualification when they hold the full National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ) i.e. both Units 1 and 2.

Candidates must meet the following on-going training criteria before being submitted for a renewal assessment:

  • Provide written evidence of having completed a minimum 20 hours lifesaving, CPR, first aid and competency assessment in conjunction with the undertaking of lifeguard duties within the period of validity of the qualification
  • Hold a current full National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ)(i.e. Units 1 and 2)
  • Have access to a copy of “The Lifeguard”, available from Lifesavers Direct, which has been updated with the most recent updates.
  • Where lifeguards undertake their activities as part of a club or other voluntary group, the same criteria must be applied in order to ensure a consistent standards within the constraints of their reduced responsibilities.


Approved Prior Learning (APL)

In some circumstances, candidates may be able to show evidence of prior achievement. In such circumstances, training times may be able to be reduced in situations where this would not create disruption to a course programme by disadvantaging other candidates; for example, where the number of candidates remaining for a part of the courses is too small to make the delivery of effective training possible.

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

  • Current RLSS UK National Beach Lifeguard Qualification (NBLQ) [12 hours];
  • Current RLSS UK Bronze Medallion or higher award [12 hours];
  • Current HSE Approved First Aid at Work Certificate or Occupational First Aid Certificate [9 hours];
  • Current RLSS UK Life Support 3 Award or equivalent [3 hours];
  • Current STA NARS [PL] Qualification [12 hours].

Where candidates wish to claim a training exemption, they MUST provide course trainers with original qualifications (photocopies WILL NOT be accepted) prior to the start of the course. Trainers, when planning courses, should alert potential candidates t the exemption scheme in course promotional materials.

A maximum of 12 hours accreditation for prior learning may be claimed.