Learn to Swim Companion

A guide to the Learn to Swim Programme


Special educational needs and/or disability (SEND) and swimming lessons


Parents or carers of children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) can get worried about taking them to mainstream swimming lessons.

However, swimming teachers who have qualified with Swim England and are delivering the Learn to Swim Programme correctly understand that everyone should be treated as an individual and will have different needs.

They will adapt their lessons accordingly so that all learners have the opportunity to learn to swim in a mainstream setting and feel included.

Learners with a SEND will be able to make progress through the Swim England Learn to Swim Programme using the same core Awards scheme for pre-school, children, and adults but may be exempt from some skills where he or she is physically unable to ever achieve them.

These learners may also receive extra support and encouragement as they make smaller steps. This will be done through complementary Awards such as:

It’s important to remember that different pools have different policies. So we do recommend you contact your local pool before booking lessons.

If you discover your child/person you care for finds mainstream lessons too challenging and isn’t progressing, speak 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.  The centre may also offer 1:1 lessons to get your learner started.

How to find a pool near you

Use Poolfinder to find your nearest swimming pool delivering Learn to Swim lessons.

Refine your search using the Swim England Learn to Swim Kids or Learn to Swim Adults icons in the pool listings, and then ask your local centre about the support they can offer your child/person you care for.

Disability and swimming lessons at school

All children should access swimming lessons through school because swimming and water safety is part of the national curriculum.

Lessons take place during primary school with the aim that by the time they leave Year 6, children should be able to swim unaided for at least 25 metres.

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.