Swim England

A nation swimming

Public schools urged to open their swimming pools to local children

Swim England News

A government announcement encouraging public schools to open their swimming facilities to local state primary schools has been welcomed by Swim England and the Swim Group.

The aim is to support primary schools to make sure all children are taught swimming and water safety skills in Key Stage 1 and 2.

The announcement, made this week by Education Secretary Damian Hinds, is part of a wider drive by government to raise awareness of the importance of learning swimming and water safety skills at school.

This follows ongoing calls by Swim England and the Swim Group for more action and resources to be made available for primary schools.

The importance of learning to swim at school

Despite swimming and water safety being a compulsory part of the national curriculum, the attainment levels of Year 6 children are still too low. Some primary schools have said they struggle to provide swimming opportunities due to the distance or availability of suitable facilities.

By encouraging independent schools to share facilities and coaches, it is hoped this will ease the pressure on primary schools.

Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, said: “As a parent, I want my children to enjoy swimming as part of an active lifestyle, and as education secretary, I want to make sure our children grow up safe and water confident.

“That’s why I wanted to partner with the Independent Schools Council (ISC) to get more private schools to offer up their pools, teachers or training to their neighbouring local state schools.”

Plugging the gap

There are 603 public schools with swimming facilities in the UK. Some of these include top of the range Olympic-size pools with adaptable floors that can be used for water polo and diving. However, only 304 independent schools currently share facilities.

Jane Nickerson, Swim England CEO and Chair of the national Swim Group said: “Ensuring all our children have access to quality curriculum swimming and water safety lessons at primary school is paramount for their safety and development. We know there are challenges for schools to deliver this, with many citing time out of school to travel to local pools as a key one.

“Many state and independent schools already open up their swimming facilities to local primary schools and the wider community, which allows people access to some great facilities. This commitment to encourage even more schools to do the same is certainly welcomed, particularly if it helps local primary schools greater access for their curriculum swimming and water safety lessons.”

Steve Parry, Chair of the Curriculum Swimming and Water Safety Review Group, added: “Since my competition days I’ve been championing the need for all children to be taught swimming and water safety at school.

“Everyone has a responsibility to ensure this happens – primary schools, parents, local authorities – so it’s great to see the ISC committing to supporting this aim.”

Julie Robinson, ISC general secretary, said: “We completely agree that all primary age pupils should learn to swim – it is a basic life skill. Many independent schools with swimming pools are already working in partnership with state schools and the wider community to ensure others have the opportunity to benefit.

“There is much goodwill from schools fortunate to have facilities that may be in short supply locally, and the Schools Together website features plenty of examples of partnership working.

“Raising awareness of partnerships and encouraging more of this good work helps state schools and independent schools develop mutually beneficial programmes, which provide education and development opportunities to all pupils and staff involved.”