Swimming and Water Safety in Schools

Explore our new School Swimming and Water Safety Charter website and register to access free digital resources

Lesson Providers

Why is school swimming so important? Because drowning is the third most common cause of accidental death in children.

School swimming is the one and only opportunity for all children to learn to swim and know how to be safe in and around water.

The chances are, children who don’t learn to swim during school lessons, may never learn this lifesaving skill.

What the Government say

The Department for Education state that all primary schools must provide swimming and water safety instruction in Key Stage 1 or 2.

Swimming is the only statutory sport within the Physical Education (PE) programme of study and in particular, pupils should be taught to:

  • 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.

While 77% of all children can swim 25 metres* unaided by the time they leave primary school, that figure drops to 42% for children from the least affluent families and is at 86% for the most affluent.**

This statistic closely aligns to the 72% finding in the Swim England Parents and Curriculum Swimming Research, published in 2018.

What does a great school swimming lesson look like?

  • Collaboration: Great school swimming lessons see both schools and lesson providers working together. They make sure their pupils get the best possible chance to learn to be safe in and around water.
  • Knowledge: A great lesson has knowledgeable swimming teachers, who also understand the national curriculum. School teachers play an active teaching role under the guidance of a Swim England Level 2 qualified swimming teacher.
  • Progressive: Lessons are based on a nationally recognised swim programme. They cover all the required outcomes of the national curriculum, with a progressive Award scheme, recognising the achievements of all of the pupils.
  • Cross-curricular: A scheme of work and lesson plans have been developed with the school for that term. For example, the school are working on ‘measuring’ – so the swimming teacher can teach ‘push and glides’ as part of the lesson. They work together with the school teacher to get the pupils to measure their distances. Walking out to the where the swimmer is covers moving, balance and orientation, in a swimming context.
  • Fun: Lessons are fun for everyone. Always emphasising water safety and safe self-rescue. There are activities that tie into what the pupils are studying at school, in support of cross-curricular learning.
  • Pool-based: Pupils spend as much time as possible in the water – not on the side.
  • At home: Schools track of the progress of their pupils’ achievements and feedback to parents and carers. They emphasise the need for regular swimming lessons during school swimming terms.

What training is available for my swimming teachers?

A CPD course is available for swimming teachers. It covers the aims of the national curriculum and school swimming in detail.

We offer an online webinar for lesson providers registered for the Swim England School Swimming and Water Safety Charter. It’s purpose is to explain the Charter in detail, and all the resources available for lesson providers and schools to use.

*The minimum standard required.

**Source: Active Lives Survey – Sport England December 2018