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Swim United campaign launched to ensure youngsters leave school able to swim

Swim England has joined three of the biggest names in the sport and leading aquatic organisations in pledging its support for a major campaign to ensure all children who leave primary school by 2025 are able to swim.

The Swim United campaign has been launched by swimwear brand Speedo alongside Olympic gold medallist Adam Peaty, Paralympic champion Ellie Simmonds and international swimmer Michael Gunning.

Along with Swim England, the Black Swimming Association and Active Black Country, they aim to highlight the growing issue of more and more children missing out on swimming lessons at school.

Swim England research shows that one in four youngsters currently leave primary school unable to swim 25m or self-rescue  – despite swimming and water safety being part of the National Curriculum.

It is feared that figure could rise to as high as six in 10 by 2025 unless there is urgent intervention from the Government.

Speedo Swim United is now calling on the public to sign a petition calling on the Government to provide ring-fenced funding to schools to ensure they provide swimming lessons.

Peaty said: “Swimming is a fundamental life skill and to hear that one in four children leave primary school without being able to swim is a truly shocking statistic which highlights the urgency needed to tackle this rapidly-growing issue which needs long-term, systemic change.

“We have just seen the greatest ever performance from a Team GB swimming squad at the Olympics, but it means nothing if we are not using that momentum to help inspire the next generation of swimmers.

“However, if kids aren’t being given the access to swimming lessons at school then they could potentially be left behind.

“This isn’t just about sport or meeting curriculum requirements – it’s about physical and mental health and, most importantly, saving lives and safeguarding our children.

“We need the Government to support campaigns and initiatives such as Speedo Swim United if we are to give ourselves the best chance of success in the future.”

Crucial we do all we can

Children unable to swim are most likely to come from low income, Black and Asian backgrounds – and Simmonds said she was excited to be a part of the campaign to help break down the barriers that prevent youngsters from learning to swim.

The five-time Paralympic gold medallist added: “I was lucky enough to start swimming at the age of five, and I’m passionate about ensuring that young people are able to develop their skills.

“Swimming is not only enjoyable and rewarding, but a genuinely life-saving skill, too.

“I’m excited to be working with Speedo to address the barriers faced by communities which prevent them from taking part in swimming lessons.

“One of the biggest barriers is undoubtedly the associated costs for many families and the easiest way to ensure they have access to the water is through school swimming lessons, which are vitally important for so many youngsters.

“It is crucial we do all we can to protect these lessons.

“But it’s also important to understand that there are more considerations that vary by community, that influence their ability to learn.”

Peaty, Simmonds and Gunning joined forces with pupils from The Cape Primary School, to encourage more youngsters  to engage with swimming and develop this life saving skill.

Gunning, who swam internationally for Jamaica and is also an ambassador for Birmingham 2022 Pride House, said: “Growing up as a mixed-race boy, I didn’t have a swimming hero who I felt I could truly relate to, and it can feel like a lonely place at the top sometimes.

“I had to overcome many barriers to become a professional athlete in the sport that I love, and my swimming journey hasn’t been an easy one.

“After many years of fighting and campaigning to make swimming more equitable for all, it’s amazing to see a brand like Speedo join forces with other influential swim organisations to highlight these issues, and act as a catalyst for change.

A sport for all

“The majority of children who can’t swim are from ethnic minority communities and this statistic really needs to change.

“Swim United is just the beginning and I am wholeheartedly behind driving this change and making a positive impact to the world of sport.

“Success in swimming isn’t just defined by winning medals, it’s about the character swimming creates and the multiple challenges you overcome along the way.

“Swimming is a sport for all, and we all have a chance to be part of that legacy moving forward.”

Kev McFadyen, global brand director at Speedo, said: “Today marks an important milestone in Speedo’s Swim United programme as we announce a shared ambition with our partners – the Black Swimming Association, Swim England and Active Black Country.

“We are calling on the public, swimmers, coaches, teachers as well as other brands and organisations to pledge their support via our Change.org petition.

“And, together, we are calling on the UK Government to intervene – a move that will surely save lives.

“In Adam Peaty, Ellie Simmonds and Michael Gunning, we have the backing of iconic swimmers, and we also stand shoulder-to-shoulder with these fantastic swim organisations in a shared mission to ensure that one in four does not become six in 10.”

The petition, which can be signed at change.org, has three key asks of the Government:

  • Ring-fence funding provided to schools for swimming lessons and include this as part of Ofsted inspections to ensure all children leave primary school able to swim.
  • Provide urgent support for swimming pool operators to remain open amid rising energy costs and to enable them to increase pool time for swimming lessons and train new teachers.
  • Invest in community engagement to reach community groups who may face cultural and systemic barriers to swimming.

To show your support for Swim United and sign the petition, please click here.