Swim England

A nation swimming

Monitoring swimming and water safety in primary schools

Swimming and water safety is included within the National Curriculum PE programme of study in England. As such, all children should leave primary school able to swim and with knowledge of how to stay safe in and around water.

Monitoring swimming attainment levels

Since 2012 Swim England has conducted annual research on swimming attainment levels of primary school children. This has been collected by talking with schools, parents and local authorities.

This research has helped us to gain an insight into the state of swimming and water safety provision and attainment levels in schools, and set up programmes to try and improve it.

Research with primary schools

The last research conducted directly with schools was in 2016. This showed that only 88 per cent of schools were aware of all three national curriculum outcomes (swimming 25 metres, using a range of strokes, knowing how to self-rescue). Of these, only 48 per cent of schools focused on water safety, despite this being a key life-saving skill. In addition, parents said that 31 per cent of Year 6 pupils leave primary school without the minimum swimming ability and water safety skills.

Talking to parents

Over the past two years we have continued to talk to parents about their child’s swimming ability. This is to compliment the Sport England Active Lives Children survey, which asks pupils about their swimming experience, and the Department for Education’s requirement for all primary schools to publish their attainment data.

The latest research with parents took place in 2018. It revealed there is still a vast difference between the three national curriculum outcomes:

  • 72 per cent of Year 6 pupils can swim at least 25 metres unaided.
  • 56 per cent of Year 6 pupils can use a range of strokes.
  • 34 per cent of Year 6 pupils can perform safe self-rescue.

This suggests a worrying trend of pupils not learning enough about water safety and why it is important to continue to teach these messages throughout primary and secondary school.