Your school swimming frequently asked questions (FAQs) answered

5th May 2014

Here at the ASA we get asked lot about school swimming. So we’ve developed a list of frequently asked questions.

Covering a range of school swimming areas from attainment levels to help, guidance and water safety, our FAQs reflect the ASA's long experience of working with schools to improve school swimming.

To access the answers simply click on one of the questions below. Click again to close the question.

If our FAQs don't answer your question then please get in contact by emailing us at schoolswimming@swimming.org

  • How can my school access training for our school teachers?

The ASA recommends that all primary school teachers should be provided with at least six hours of aquatic and water safety training.  The National Curriculum Training Programme (NCTP) has been developed to equip swimming teachers and schools with the right skills and knowledge to deliver quality swimming lessons. It is open to anyone working in a primary school swimming environment such as school teachers, classroom assistants, parents, helpers. More information on organising a course can be found here (link to training section)

  • What are the minimum requirements in the curriculum for school swimming?

Swimming and water safety is a compulsory part of the national curriculum. The new curriculum for PE has been published by the Department for Education and will come into force from September 2014, but schools will have been teaching it since September 2013. 

All schools must provide swimming instruction in either KS1 or KS2.  In particular, pupils should be taught to

Swim competently, confidently and proficiently over a distance of at least 25 metres

Use a range of strokes effectively (for example, front crawl, backstroke and breaststroke)

Perform safe self-rescue in different water-based situations

  • How much does school swimming cost?

The average cost of delivering 40 swimming lessons for an entire class of 30 pupils, including transport cost, teachers and pool time is around £3,000 to £4,000.  Below are some examples of what an investment in school swimming could provide:

£1,000– increase the frequency of lessons, instead of one term, do two - 10 learn to swim lessons for 30 children including teacher, pool time and transport

£850– 10 intensive half-hour lessons to boost the swimming ability of 10 swimmers who are just below the minimum KS2 attainment level of 25 metres, including teacher, pool time and transport

£500– improve the quality of lessons by training 10 teachers and/or teaching assistants (National Curriculum Training Programme Modules 1 & 2)

£80- set of School Swimming resources: the Teacher’s Complete Framework with must have information on all four Frameworks and a Learn to Swim Games Pack to deliver a fun approach in lessons

From £7.50 to £15 per hourto reduce class sizes by adding additional teachers

  • What are the benefits of school swimming for the pupils?

Swimming is one of the easiest, safest forms of exercise for children of all abilities and school swimming is the single most effective way of teaching children how to be safe in and around water.  School swimming is the first line of defence to reverse the rise in deaths amongst under 16s due to drowning (National Water Safety Forum 2012) and address head-on the fact that drowning is the third most common cause of death of children in England.

Not only is swimming a life-saving skill, one in three children say swimming is their favourite family activity*. As one of the most accessible forms of exercise in terms of age, weight and physical ability, swimming is an incredibly inclusive sport.

The ability to swim opens up a whole range of water-based activities such as water polo, diving, synchronised swimming and many more.

 *From YouGov survey carried out on behalf of British Gas Feb 2010.  Based on 31% of 899 respondents choosing swimming from a selection of activities.

  • What can our school do to quickly improve the standards of our school swimming lessons?

Overall to improve school swimming, the ASA recommends schools should look to increase the frequency of lessons, reduce the class ratios and improve the quality of the teaching. We recommend that school start a dialogue with their lesson providers or talk to the teachers who are involved in delivery in the first instance.  Here are some key areas to look at.

Firstly, class sizes. Are these too big, or do they need to be reviewed taking into account ability levels and creating smaller class sizes? The ASA recommends a maximum teacher:pupil ratio of 1:12. If working with non-swimmers a class size of 1:6 is recommended.

Secondly, the number of lessons being offered. Are they adequate to deliver the curriculum outcomes?  Often more frequent lessons are needed The ASA’s research shows that the average duration of a swimming lesson is 31 minutes, 45 minutes is the recommended lesson time.

Finally, the quality of teaching. Is what is being delivered of a high enough standard or is additional training required?

  • What are the statistics we have been hearing about children unable to swim?

The results of the largest ever school swimming census conducted in England by the ASA with support from Kellogg’s and the Institute of Youth Sport at Loughborough University revealed that the statutory KS2 requirement for a child to swim 25m unaided is met by only 49% of state school pupils.  This means that 1.1 million school children cannot swim.

If you would like to help us in ongoing data collection for school swimming you can complete the 2013 school swimming survey here.

We also have a secondary school survey for teachers here and one for pupils here .

If you would like to see any of our research in more detail please contact the ASA Research and Insight team at informatics@swimming.org

  • How do I find out the attainment rates of children able to swim in our area?

The number of children able to swim 25 metres per region is as follows: The number of respondents is statistically relevant to make regional and England-wide conclusions.

South West 63% (263 respondents)
North West 57% (188 respondents)
East 57% (250 respondents)
West Midlands 54% (185 respondents)
South East 54% (348 respondents)
East Midlands 52% (270 respondents)
North East 49% (292 respondents)
London 41% (198 respondents)

A more detailed breakdown can be found in the full Census document here.

  • How do we organise pool facilities?

We recommend that schools investigate whether any other schools in the area have a pool that can be used, which may reduce the cost.  Schools should block book pool time as early as possible, as the earlier the booking, the more chance there is of exclusive use, at least in certain areas of the pool.  You may also be entitled to a discount if you block book.  Most pool operators seek to spread their swimming attendances over the day.  Between 9.30am and 11.30am and 1.15pm to 2.45pm is often quiet and so an ideal time for school swimming lessons.

  • What help can we get with water safety education?

The ASA operate a water safety campaign called ‘Get Safe’ which aims to teach children all about the dangers posed by open water, as well as highlighting that swimming is the only sport that can save your life.  Specifically the campaign teaches children all the important things they need to know when visiting coastal and inland waters, from how they can spot the dangers themselves to how to act in an emergency. Read more here about an example of how it was run in Daventry, West Midlands in 2013.  Supported for 2014 by The Swimming Trust, a selection of pool operators and swim schools will be linking with local primary schools to run water safety education events over the coming months. Why not check with your local pool to ask if they are taking part?

Being safe in and around water is not just for the summer months, it’s important all year round. If you would like to request a slide presentation for use in your school assembly just email get.safe@swimming.org

  • How do we go about finding a qualified swimming teacher for our lessons?

Most pool providers will allocate swimming teachers in the cost of pool hire.  It is important to ensure that the swimming teacher holds a Level 2 Teaching Aquatics Certificate. (ASA UKCC or equivalent).

  • What role should our teaching staff play in running school swimming lessons?

Primary school teachers and teaching assistants play a key role in delivering swimming lessons.  Some counties insist on school staff holding the National Curriculum Training Programme (NCTP) qualification before assisting in teaching and the ASA supports this.  School staff should liaise with the swimming teacher to clarify roles on the poolside, link the lessons to other national curriculum subjects and offer advice with regard to pupils.

  • Transport to the pool is sometimes an issue for our school and is expensive. How can we look to cut costs?

Centralised organisation of transport within local authorities would be a good way to reduce cost and ease organisation. Coach companies may have spare capacity during midweek days so can be hired at reasonable rates.  Schools could also look to share transport where possible or consider community buses. Shuttle runs can also help to reduce costs. E.g.

1. Take class 1 to the pool, drive back to school

2. Take class 2 to the pool, return class 1 to school

3. Take class 3 to the pool, return class 2 to school

Schools should not rely on parents to contribute financially to school swimming lesson transport as many parents already pay for additional swimming lesson provision after school to support the teaching process.

  • Many of our pupils are from black and minority ethnic (BME) groups.  How do we include these children in our swimming lessons?

In some cultures, there can be little encouragement of swimming within the family unit.  Many children from BME backgrounds may be non swimmers when they start school swimming. For many faith groups, modesty is the key issue in swimming so boys and girls being part of the same session would not be permitted. 

We recommend the family should be consulted in how they wish their child to participate, and that you seek guidance from the local council or interfaith groups

Also, make alternative arrangements such as single sex classes. One option is to block-book separate classes either from a number of schools or with different age groups from the same school.

Other advice is to use same sex teachers for classes and adopt flexible clothing codes.

  • How do we integrate children with special education needs (SEN) into our swimming lesson programme?

Pupils with SEN should be identified to the swimming teacher well in advance of the lessons so that lessons can be adapted accordingly.  Most children will be able to join in with the rest of their class if the activities are adapted to their needs.  Some children may not be able to take part in this way so lesson programming should be reviewed.  We recommend:

In groups with a number of pupils with disabilities, the lesson should be led by a swimming teacher who holds disability specific qualifications.  For further details visit www.theiosonline.com

If a number of pupils with physical disabilities will be attending the lessons, care must be taken to ensure that the pool and surrounding areas are suitable.  If hoists are required, it is highly recommended to visit the centre to check that these are operational.

  • Can children be withdrawn from swimming activities?

Within the law, parents do not have a right to withdraw their children from this statutory element of the National Curriculum.

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