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A nation swimming

Olympian Steve Parry urges schools ‘not to forget life-saving swimming lessons’

Olympian Steve Parry is calling on primary schools ‘not to forget life-saving swimming lessons’ as youngsters return to the classrooms.

School Sport Facilities research commissioned by Sport England, led by EVERFI EdComs, showed that 85 per cent of primary schools reduced or stopped their usual swimming lessons between last September and the start of the second national lockdown on 5 November.

With youngsters spending so much time out of the classroom due to the coronavirus lockdowns, naturally more focus will be placed on ‘traditional’ subjects such as English, maths and science in the remainder of this academic year, but swimming lessons can’t be ‘pushed down the agenda’.

The Olympic bronze medallist is hoping headteachers will ensure youngsters receive ample opportunity to learn how to swim as it remains a key part of the national curriculum.

Steve said: “Too many youngsters have missed out on what is, for many, their only opportunity to learn how to swim because of the coronavirus lockdowns – and now schools are reopening, this must not be allowed to continue.

“I am concerned that schools will place more emphasis on the traditional classroom subjects and forget swimming lessons – especially if they don’t have their own pool, which so many schools don’t.

“I appreciate swimming lessons aren’t simply going to return on day one of being back in school. However, schools shouldn’t simply stop or cut back on swimming lessons.

“There is plenty of time remaining in this academic year so there should be no excuses not to run swimming lessons. The statistics prove that pools are safe and controlled environments.

“Learning to swim is a life-saving skill. It’s part of the national curriculum for a very important reason and that can’t be forgotten.”

Statutory guidance for the national curriculum for physical education states that all schools must provide swimming instruction in key stage 1 or key stage 2.

Missing out on a lifetime of opportunities

In particular, pupils should be taught 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.

Steve added: “If someone’s child left primary school unable to read or write, parents would feel angry and pretty let down.

“That should be the case if their child can’t swim when they leave primary school as well.

“Every youngster has the right to learn how to swim and know how to stay safe in the water – yet too many were leaving primary school before the coronavirus pandemic began without this skill.

“This could escalate following the closure of pools and schools and we can’t afford to let swimming be pushed down the agenda as pupils go back to school.

“We risk seeing a generation being unable to swim and missing out on a lifetime of opportunities if that happens.”