More than one million children could leave primary school unable to swim12 May 2021
More than one million children could leave primary school in the next five years unable to swim the minimum standards required under the national curriculum, according to worrying new predictions.
The startling figures have been published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Swimming and recognised national governing body Swim England, who are warning of a ‘lost generation’ of swimmers unless action is taken to halt the projected decline.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic around one in four children could not swim the statutory 25 metres when they left primary school – and it is feared that could rise to three in five children by the 2025-26 academic year.
The Impact of Coronavirus on School Swimming and Water Safety report reveals that 1,186,555 pupils are expected to leave primary school between 2021-22 and 2025-26 unable to swim 25 metres unaided.
Catherine West, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Swimming, said they would be raising the matter with the Department for Education as a matter of urgency in a bid to prevent the projections becoming a reality.
She said: “Swimming and water safety is a vital life skill that every child should have.
“Aside from the numerous health and wellbeing benefits of swimming, it is no exaggeration to say that learning how to swim, and about the importance of water safety, are skills that could one day save a life.
Close the attainment gap
“With drowning sadly remaining one of the most common causes of accidental death in the UK, this is more important than ever.
“Covid has hugely impacted on every facet of our children’s education and placed pressures on schools and teachers up and down the country.
“With pools closed for much of 2020, school swimming is no different and this report shows the impact Covid has had on school swimming and water safety attainment levels.
“I passionately believe that all children should have the opportunity to learn these skills.
“Even before Covid, we were seeing some worrying inequalities between the outcomes for black children and children from other ethnically-diverse communities, as well as children from less affluent families.
“We must all work hard to ensure that we close the attainment gap and make sure that every child is leaving school set up to enjoy the water safely for the rest of their lives.
“The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Swimming will be continuing to raise this issue with the Department for Education to ensure this key part of the national curriculum is not forgotten about and youngsters are given the chance to learn to swim at school.”
Prevent lost generation
Swimming and water safety have been a statutory element of the national curriculum for physical education in England since 1994.
All primary schools must provide swimming and water safety lessons in either Key Stage 1 or 2 and every pupil is required to be able to do the following:
- 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.
Jane Nickerson, Swim England chief executive, acknowledged the pressures facing schools but urged them to prioritise swimming and water safety lessons in a bid to improve the outcomes for their pupils.
She added: “These are particularly worrying predictions.
“These children are in urgent need of swimming lessons and general swimming participation or else we will see a huge knock-on effect to their ability that would continue into adulthood.
“It’s vital that pupils who have missed out on school swimming and water safety lessons because of the pandemic have the opportunity to catch up.
“We will offer all the support we can to help schools improve their school swimming and water safety attainment levels to prevent a lost generation of swimmers.”
Swim England teamed up with the Department for Education and the Swim Group to create materials and resources that offer clear guidance for primary schools, pool operators, swimming teachers and parents.
In addition, the School Swimming and Water Safety Charter gives members exclusive access to an extensive set of resources and advice to help improve lesson quality and impact.
Find out more about more by visiting www.swimming.org/schools/