Swim England

A nation swimming

‘Life-changing’ Inclusion 2020 helps thousands start their learn to swim journey

A ‘life-changing’ programme has helped more than 2,000 young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) access vital swimming lessons.

New data looking at the impact of the Inclusion 2020 programme between January 2019 and March 2021 has been released by children’s charity the Youth Sport Trust.

It shows that 2,170 young people with SEND started their learn to swim journey – while 9,328 schools were supported with continuing professional development to ensure sport and Physical Education is inclusive to every child.

The Government’s Inclusion 2020 programme sees a network of YST Lead Inclusion Schools working directly with young people, parents, organisations and other schools to ensure that having a disability does not reduce a young person’s opportunity to benefit from high-quality PE, sport and physical activity.

The school swimming and water safety aspect of the project is funded through the Department for Education in partnership with Swim England.

Katie Towner, Swim England’s head of Learn to Swim, said the project aims to improve and increase the opportunities for SEND pupils.

She added: “The objective of the project is to see young people with SEND offered high-quality opportunities, developing life skills, independence as well as swimming ability.

“There have been so many inspirational stories as a result of Inclusion 2020 and we’re delighted to see so many have started their learn to swim journey as a result of it. We hope even more young people with SEND will have the opportunity to go swimming in the future thanks to programmes like this.”

Positive impact

One swimming inclusion lead hailed the benefits of the programme saying: “I have seen lots of small successes.

“In a matter of weeks, one of my students went from sitting on the pool side to getting into the pool safely and blowing bubbles in the water.

“I now look forward to teaching my swimming sessions and love to watch my pupils growing in confidence and having a great time.”

Nick Gibb MP, Schools Minister, said: “I’m pleased to see the positive impact our Inclusion 2020 programme has had on children with special educational needs and disabilities, allowing them to take part more easily in sport and learn new skills like swimming.

“These activities are so important not just for physical and mental wellbeing, but also for developing the resilience to tackle challenges later in life.

“Physical activity and wellbeing goes hand in hand with academic success – that’s why we launched our ambitious School Sport and Activity Action Plan and why we are investing more than £10 million to help open existing school sports and swimming facilities as national restrictions ease.”

Ali Oliver, chief executive at the Youth Sport Trust, said: “Contributing to the excitement and building on the inspiration of the upcoming Paralympic Games, Inclusion 2020 has been a real game changer for so many young people with and without SEND.

“Through new experiences and learning leadership, confidence, and communication skills through sport, it truly has been life-changing for the thousands of young people.

Deliver on our mission

“What has been achieved over the last three years would simply not have been possible had it not been for the hard work, dedication and expertise of our consortium partners and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the DFE for helping us to deliver on our mission.”

The Inclusion 2020 consortium has shared top tips and learnings from its research across the three-year programme around swimming and water safety.

It suggests considering dry-side and water safety activities while pools start to adjust and reopen.

Inclusion 2020 schools have also tried drawing pools on playgrounds so pupils can see and practice how to enter and exit the water, playing games that encourage wearing flotation devices to address any sensory concerns prior to entering the pool and practicing the language used in swimming lessons such as entry/exit and start/stop.

Swim England also encourages teachers to:

  • Always do an initial risk assessment of the activity and environment
  • Prepare swimming kit and additional floatation equipment in advance
  • Be prepared to adapt sessions, practices and activities to accommodate swimmers needs
  • Discuss the needs of the swimmers in advance of the session with the teacher or coach
  • And have fun.

For more information on Inclusion 2020 and to read the programme’s insight report in full, visit www.youthsporttrust.org/inclusion-2020