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Swim England teams up with STA to clarify minimum standards for school swimming

Swim England has teamed up with the STA to create a nine-point plan to help clarify national curriculum guidelines around performing safe self-rescue in different water-based situations.

They have produced the outcomes to clearly define what minimum standards are required in school swimming and water safety lessons.

The Department for Education has confirmed that there is no intention to alter the national curriculum requirements for school swimming.

Pupils currently are expected to complete three elements by the time they leave Year Six – be able to swim competently, confidently and proficiently over a distance of 25 metres, using a range of strokes effectively and perform safe self-rescue in different water-based situations.

While two of the outcomes are clearly defined, arguably the most important factor around self-rescue can be interpreted in different ways.

So, Swim England and the STA has worked together to publish a number of skills to provide clarity and consistency for teachers and parents and ensure the desired protective effect is met.

The nine suggested outcomes, which should be completed by pupils in sequence in full reach depth water, are: 

  1. Fall-in entry and recover to surface
  2. Float on the back with minimal movement for 60 seconds without floatation equipment
  3. Rotate from floating on the back to a vertical position
  4. Tread water for 30 seconds
  5. Whilst treading water, signal for help once, by extending one arm above the head and simultaneously shouting for help then returning the arm to the water to continue to tread water
  6. Swim (without floatation equipment) 15m to a floating object, using a recognised personal survival stroke (head up long arm front paddle or lifesaving backstroke)
  7. Retaining the floating object take up the heat escape lessening position/posture for 30 seconds
  8. Form a huddle position as a group for 30 seconds
  9. Swim 15m to exit the water unaided

The outcomes also include possible reasonable adjustments for shallow water and physical impairments.

Ashley Jones, Swim England’s water safety and drowning prevention manager, said: “The outcomes for Key Stage 2 Physical Education School Swimming and Water Safety curriculum will remain the same for the academic year 2023 to 2024, but we know the wording of this ‘self-rescue’ outcome can be interpreted differently.

“This has led to confusion among school staff, swimming teachers and parents about their children’s swimming ability and water competence.

“As a result, we’ve worked collaboratively with the STA to provide clarification on what the minimum expected standard should be under the national curriculum requirements for school swimming and water safety.

“This will allow for consistent measuring and evaluation of pupil competence, allowing a true reflection of attainment and starting point for driving improvement.”

Kayle Brightwell, STA’s director of education, added: “The aim of this joint statement is to provide a consensus on a consistent set of clearly measurable skill-based outcomes that combine to enable a young person to survive an unexpected entry to cold water until rescue or self-extraction is possible.”

The suggested skills can also be downloaded from Swim England’s School Swimming and Water Safety Charter website.