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Swim England ‘concerned and disappointed’ at Ofsted report findings

Swim England has expressed its ‘concern and disappointment’ at a new Ofsted report which states pupils’ swimming and water safety attainment in primary schools is ‘mixed’.

Levelling the playing field: the physical education subject report analysed how PE was being taught in schools between November 2022 and June 2023.

Swimming is a key part of the national curriculum and all pupils leaving year six should be able to swim competently, confidently and proficiently over a distance of at least 25 metres, using a range of strokes effectively and be able to perform safe self-rescue in different water-based situations.

However, the report found the cost of transport and the availability of swimming facilities ‘often limited the design of ambitious curriculums for swimming and water safety’.

It stated the evaluation of the swimming and water safety element of the curriculum is ‘limited’ – and schools ‘do not make full use of the PE and sport premium, which can be used to fund top-up swimming lessons, where needed’.

While ‘the pandemic has also posed additional challenges for many schools’ the report says ‘it is not always clear in primary schools precisely what is taught, how it is taught or how the curriculum is organised to help all pupils achieve the ambitions of this aspect of the national curriculum’.

The report recommends primary schools should ‘make sure that their curriculum matches the breadth and ambition of the national curriculum for all pupils’ and ‘should include carefully sequenced and taught swimming and water safety lessons’.

Jane Nickerson, Swim England chief executive, said: “For so many youngsters, school swimming lessons are the only opportunity to learn a vital life skill.

Important part of the curriculum

“It’s therefore concerning and disappointing to see that the attainment levels at so many schools is classed as mixed in this Ofsted report, which is reflected in the stark attainment gap we see between pupils.

“Every pupil at every primary school should have the right to swimming and water safety lessons. It is an important part of the national curriculum for a reason and no-one should leave year six unable to swim.

“We have worked with partners and the Department for Education to provide resources and support to help schools improve their attainment levels.

“Our recently-published Value of Swimming report highlighted how swimming positively contributes to physical and mental wellbeing, to individual and community development, and helps to reduce the burden to our health and social care system.

“We would encourage policy leaders, local authorities and schools to do everything they can to ensure pupils don’t miss out on swimming and water safety lessons.”

Swim England has created a free School Swimming and Water Safety Charter to help teachers transform lessons.

It provides a range of lesson plans, guidance documents, videos, fun activities and awards.

To find out more, and sign up to the charter, please click here.