Learn to Swim Companion

A guide to the Learn to Swim Programme

Disability and swimming lessons


Parents of children with special educational needs and/or disabilities can get worried about their child’s disability and swimming lessons.

Every child should be treated as an individual so depending on what their specific needs are, they should have the opportunity to learn to swim in mainstream lessons.

They should progress using the same Swim England Learn to Swim Programme. Children with disabilities can work through the same Swim England Awards, but will be exempt from some skills where he or she is physically unable to achieve them.

However, different pools have different policies. So we recommend you contact your local pool before booking lessons.

If you discover your child finds mainstream lessons too challenging and isn’t progressing, you could try speaking to the swimming co-ordinator at your local pool.

It could be that they can offer a swimming lesson at a different time when the session is less busy and the teacher will be able to offer more attention.

Or they may be able to put a support teacher in the pool to help your child.  The centre may also offer 1:1 lessons to get your child started.

Find your nearest pool using our poolfinder widget below. Look out for the Swim England Learn to Swim Kids icon in the pool listing and ask them about the support they can offer your child.

Disability and swimming lessons at school

All children should access swimming lessons through school because swimming and water safety is compulsory as part of the National Curriculum.

Lessons take place during primary school with the aim that by the age of 11 children should be able to swim unaided for at least 25m.

Contact your child’s school and ask them how they are meeting their obligation to your child’s swimming development:

  • Ask them about swimming teachers’ experience of working with children with disabilities.
  • Make sure they have established links with their local authority to access any special provision.
  • Push for one-to-one support in the water for your child, if needed.
  • Don’t take no for an answer. Your child is learning a life skill just like every other child.