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Cross-party Parliamentary group calls for action to tackle school swimming

5 June 2013

A cross-party group of MPs and Peers are calling for the Government to tackle the concerning numbers of children unable to swim.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Sport, chaired by Gerry Sutcliffe MP (and supported by umbrella body the Sport and Recreation Alliance), met in Parliament on Tuesday 4th June to highlight the issue. Group members including Baroness Grey-Thompson, Ian Austin MP, Andrew Bingham MP and Charlotte Leslie MP were present to show their support.

It was an opportunity for David Sparkes, Chief Executive of the ASA to present the findings of its' biggest ever investigation into school swimming.

Figures show that more than half (51%) of children aged 7 to 11 years cannot swim 25 metres unaided, despite swimming's place on the national curriculum.

Almost 45% of schools stated that the biggest barrier to delivering better quality school swimming was budget constraints. Where schools are achieving high attainment rates amongst their pupils it is attributed to better pupil to teacher ratios, longer lesson times and a higher number of lessons offered.

David Sparkes, Chief Executive of the ASA said, “Many young children engage in organised sport for the first time at school - and this is also when many will make their first visit to a swimming pool.  Without school swimming we know that many children would not have the opportunity to learn this life-saving skill, or take part in one of the easiest and enjoyable forms of physical activity for young people.

“I welcome the opportunity to present our findings to the All Parliamentary Group for Sport, as well as discuss how some of the insight can help safeguard its' future.  The ASA is keen to work with Government to ensure this vital national curriculum subject is delivered to a high standard.”

Tim Lamb, Chief Executive of the Sport and Recreation Alliance, said, “Being able to swim is a basic skill like running, catching and jumping – one of the core building blocks for a lifetime of activity.

“If half of our 7 to 11 year olds can’t swim, they are going to be cut off from a whole range of other activities from sailing, canoeing and rowing to water skiing, scuba diving and surfing.

"We need to start changing our approach to swimming and we welcome the political will we’ve seen today to try and put this into action.”

In response to the findings, APPG for Sport member Charlotte Leslie MP has tabled an early day motion today, Wednesday 5th June, rallying MPs and Peers to sign up and get behind the cause.

The motion is calling for closer OFSTED monitoring to ensure that primary schools provide more evidence and show greater commitment to their swimming programmes.

The opportunity for the recently announced £150 million of ring-fenced spending for primary school sport to be used to improve these attainment levels will also be emphasised.

Charlotte Leslie MP said, “As a youngster I spent hours ploughing up and down the pool in my bid to become an Olympic swimmer. Although I never made it to the Olympics, swimming has played a key role in making me who I am. For many young people schools will offer the first opportunity to learn to swim, and it’s vital that head teachers get the support and information they need to deliver this important life skill.”

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