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Swim Group report to improve swimming and water safety in schools

Swim England News

A new report launched today by the Swim Group aims to improve swimming and water safety in schools.

Developed by a range of experts from across the education, sport and leisure sectors, the report explores the challenges that primary schools face in delivering high quality swimming and water safety lessons. It also makes a series of recommendations on how to improve the situation.

The report found that almost a third (31 per cent) of Year 6 pupils will finish school for the summer without being able to swim and without basic water safety skills. This is despite both being stated within the national curriculum. In addition, two-thirds (63 per cent) of parents with Year 6 children fear that their child could not save themselves in water.

The report was written by the Curriculum Swimming and Water Safety Review Group on behalf of the Swim Group, which Swim England leads. Chaired by Olympic medallist Steve Parry, it was formed following the publication of the Government’s sport strategy Sporting Future. 

The Group was asked to consider the challenges around swimming and water safety in schools and to submit recommendations on how swimming in primary schools can be addressed.

The report includes 16 recommendations on how government, the education sector and the leisure industry can work together to ensure all children leave primary school with an appropriate level of swimming and water safety ability.

These include specific training for school teachers and other teaching staff, and new resources for all those involved in delivering school swimming lessons, including pools.

A new national top-up swimming programme for schools with the lowest swimming attainment levels has also been proposed, and achievement badges to celebrate the success of pupils achieving statutory standards.

Steve Parry commented: “We know that over a thousand schools don’t teach swimming even though it is a statutory requirement. At the moment we are failing our children by not helping them learn an essential skill. Hundreds of people drown every year and that is something we can remedy.

“Water safety is the only part of the national curriculum that will save children’s lives, it can’t be treated as an optional extra. We would welcome the opportunity to work closely with Ofsted in setting quality standards for curriculum swimming. That is the ‘silver bullet’ for ensuring schools deliver swimming.”

Tracey Crouch, Minister for Sport and Civil Society, welcomed the report, commenting that “Swimming is not just a great sport but a discipline that is crucial for children to learn. We want to see more schools stepping up and ensuring that the number of children who leave school able to swim rises. I am grateful for the work of Swim England and the Swim Group on this report and government and Sport England will continue to work with them on this issue”.

Robert Goodwill, Minister of State for Children and Families, commented: “Swimming is a vital life skill and schools have a duty to teach children how to swim and learn about water safety at primary school. These findings show that more needs to be done to ensure all schools feel confident teaching swimming to students, which is why we will continue to work closely with Swim England and the Swim Group to review the recommendations within this report.”