Progression within Artistic Swimming

The way your child progresses through the synchro teams can sometimes be a bit confusing. There is structure in it all though, so here is some guidance for parents and swimmers to help you monitor your progress.

Before you can start synchro, all children should have a good level of swimming ability and be confident in the water, ideally have completed stages level 5-7 of the NPTS (or equivalent) or be able to swim 50m in 3 different strokes.

Grades 1 - 6

Artistic swimmers take grades to be able to compete at different competition. The lowest level is grade 1 and the highest is grade 6. It takes roughly one year to prepare for each grade so it will be many years before you reach level 6! When your coach feels you're ready you will be invited to attend a test at a test center (for us, that is usually Burnham-on-Sea) during a National Assessment day (there are multiple throughout the year, see calendar) by a team of external assessors.

Swim England have some great grades resources here.

Starter Synchro and 12&U development squad

We welcome swimmers new to Artistic swimming into our starter synchro squad suitable for competent swimmers, boys and girls, aged approximately 7 - 11 years.   Here they will learn the basics of artistic swimming and have fun in the pool.  

 From here will move into the 12 and Under Development squad.   They will start to work towards grades and learning routines. 


Next, swimmers are selected into squads depending on age and ability. Synchro is quite unique as it has 2 strands called 'development' and 'competitive'. City of Bristol Aquatics caters for all levels as we have both squads in all age groups and compete in all levels of competitions during the year. Not all the training is done in the pool. Land-work sessions include working on flexibility, core strength, learning routines and walking through routines.

Combo team

The more relaxed Combo strand is ideal for those who wish synchro to be a hobby and only wish to attend 1-3 times a week. Swimmers are not required to hold any grades to be in a development team and can compete at competitions throughout the year. Even though no grades are required, you will continue to work towards your next grade. We have a number of development teams depending on age (12 and under, 13/14 and 15 and over). A maximum of 10 swimmers can compete per team.

Competitive team

The competitive strand is suitable for those who aspire to be our elite swimmers. Competitive teams are based on age categories and we have a team for every official age category at City of Bristol Aquatics (12 and under, 13/14 and 15 and over). Swimmers can only be considered for a competitive team if they hold the appropriate skill level:

  • Grade 3, bronze is needed to compete in the 12 and under competitive team.
  • Grade 4, bronze is needed to compete in the 13-15 competitive team
  • Grade 5, bronze is needed to compete in the 15-18 competitive team

Competition events for competitive teams

Athletes perform routines to music that can be anything from 2.5 to 5 minutes long, depending on whether they perform alone or as part of a team.

There are four main routine types:

  • Solos - an individual swimmer will synchronise with the music. For the 12 and under age group, you need to hold at least grade 3 silver. For the 13-14 age group, you need to hold at least grade 4 silver.  For the 15-17 age group, you need to hold at least grade 5 silver.
  • Duets - two swimmers perform the same movements in time with the music. Necessary skill levels are the same as for solos
  • Teams - where up to eight athletes co-ordinate their movements in time to the music. The minimum number of athletes for a team is four. Teams lose marks for every swimmer they have under the full complement. Up to two athletes can be entered as reserve.
  • Combination - a team routine where up to ten swimmers perform in one continuous routine. Within a combo routine there must be a solo, duet and another moment where not all 10 swimmers swim at once.

In competitions, there is also an event called 'figures'. Figures are specific synchro movements which are internationally recognised and these are produced by FINA, the sport's world-wide governing body. There is no music in this event and the individual performs 4 different movements in front of a panel of judges. The points awarded count towards the end result of the team events. Note that the reserves can participate in figures even if they don't perform in the team event.