School swimming success in City of Liverpool

6 October 2010

Liverpool City Council is celebrating the resounding success of their school swimming programme after almost doubling the number of children who can swim 25 metres in just four years.

Results from 120 of the local authority primary schools show 85% of Year 6 pupils have successfully reached the minimum standard, an amazing 45% increase on figures recorded in 2006.

In addition, 29 primary schools in the city have reported that every single Year 6 child is able to swim at least 25 metres, an impressive attainment given that some schools have up to 90 children in the year.

Stephen Tiffany, Liverpool City Council’s Senior School Improvement Officer for Children’s Health and Well-being has taken an active role in the development of the school swimming programme and is thrilled at the success.

“We introduced a structured programme for school swimming in 2006 and since then the results have increased year on year.  We are now delighted to announce that the programme has taught the vast majority of our Key Stage 2 pupils to swim.” 

“The City of Liverpool really is a shining example of how to implement a school swimming programme that delivers results – it’s wonderful to know that so many children have now got this essential life skill through the scheme,”

said ASA school swimming advisor Jon Keating.

As a compulsory component of the national curriculum, school swimming within local authority primary schools is audited regularly by the ASA but results vary due to a number of factors, from quality of teaching through to the amount of time spent in the water. In 2006 the results for City of Liverpool were disappointing, with 60% of pupils leaving primary school unable to achieve the minimum requirements of Swimming at Key Stage 2 (including being able to swim at least 25 metres).

“Schools had to make their own arrangements – such as booking local swimming pools and organising their own transport.” Stephen remembers. “Schools also found that there was no consistency in the delivery of the swimming teaching - it was all too ad-hoc.  The children were getting wet but they weren’t learning or progressing.”

The audit results were a catalyst for the authority to put a series of changes in place, starting with the combination of budgets across four school sports partnerships and the introduction of a comprehensive ‘Top-up’ swimming scheme.  During the summer term, 1,600 children attended two-weeks of intensive swimming lessons to bring them up to the minimum standard.

“Top-up swimming was just the start – we carried on to implement a deliberate, structured school swimming programme,” said Stephen. “We now have a co-ordinated city-wide plan, where the council provides and organises the transport, the pools, the tuition and life-guarding, all paid for and booked centrally as a package.” 

Around 90 schools in the city now use this package which is offered to them at a subsidised rate.

“The schools are all very happy with the scheme,” said Stephen.  “One of the things they like is that there is a stable team of swimming instructors at the same pool, week after week, seeing the same children, to give continuity.  Retention of swimming teachers in the area is extremely good, with hardly any movement of staff. 

“Recognition of the high priority given to the support of the teaching staff was shown in 2008 when one of our swimming teachers Caroline Eustace took Bronze Award for Swim Teacher of the Year at the annual Kellogg’s ASA Swimtastic Awards.”

The role played by swimming teachers was an important part of the programme of improvements with the introduction of a standardised pay rate and special uniforms.  Training on the ASA’s National Plan for Teaching Swimming, powered by British Gas (NPTS) is also provided as part of a structured continuing professional development programme for the swimming teachers.

School teachers and classroom assistants were trained through the ASA’s National Curriculum Training Programme, so that anyone who is accompanying the children to their lessons is suitably qualified to help at poolside.

An essential factor in the success of the newly developed school swimming programme was the appointment of full time school swimming development officer, Katie Bull.  She ensures the quality of the swimming lessons through use of the NPTS, develops relationships with the schools and encourages them to have their classroom stafLiverpool Aquatic Centref trained by the ASA too. She said: “Take-up was helped massively by the opening of Liverpool Aquatic Centre, a fantastic flagship facility for the area which gave a big push for us to make sure that every child in Liverpool could swim.

“Everyone wants to come to somewhere that is brand new and the facilities are fantastic.  The moveable pool floor means that we can divide up the space and have two or three schools using it at once.”

Jon Keating added: “Over the last four years we have encouraged local authorities to audit their swimming to see how close they are to meeting the Key Stage 2 standards.

“It is our goal that by 2013, 85% of all school children should to be able to swim at least 25 metres, have a sound range of water skills and knowledge of water safety.  Of course they need to have the right support and opportunities to achieve this, so we also want to see 100% of all state primary schools participating in a school swimming programme, as is the case in Liverpool.”

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