Swimming and Water Safety in Schools

Welcome to the Swim England Swimming and Water Safety in Schools website

The importance of learning to swim at school

Drowning is the third most common cause of accidental death in children. Here at Swim England, we believe all children should have the opportunity to learn how to swim and be taught how to stay safe in and around water.

Since 1994, swimming and water safety has been a statutory element of the national curriculum for physical education in England. This means that every 11-year old child should leave primary school with the skills to keep themselves safe while enjoying swimming with friends and family.

While many children learn to swim out side of school, for some, school provides the only opportunity they have to learn these vital lifesaving skills.

Providing all children with swimming and water safety lessons in primary school is the only way to ensure every generation is taught basic water safety skills.

Swimming and the national curriculum

Swimming is the only sport to be included within the national curriculum physical education programme of study. This means that all primary schools must provide swimming and water safety lessons in either Key Stage 1 or 2.

Each pupil is required to reach the following three outcomes:

  • Perform safe self-rescue in different water based situations
  • 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.

Support for primary schools

Despite swimming and water safety being a Key Stage 1 and 2 national curriculum requirement, research since 2012 has consistently shown that only half of pupils meet the required standards.

One of the key reasons provided by schools and parents was their lack of knowledge around what should be taught and how to effectively report on attainment levels. As a result, the Department for Education, Swim England, the Swim Group and a range of drowning prevention charities, have joined together to create a resource pack with clear guidance for primary schools, pool operators, swimming teachers and parents.

In addition, Swim England has refreshed it’s School Swimming Charter resources to support teachers and pool operators.

Download the support materials:

  • Curriculum Swimming and Water Safety Resource pack:
    • Primary schools
    • Swimming Teachers
    • Pool operators
    • Parents and Pupils
  • Swim England School Charter Resources

For more information about swimming and water safety lessons in schools, please email schoolswimming@swimming.org.