UK government urged to prioritise swimming in primary schools

The government have been urges to make it clear that sport saves lives after it was revealed that a third of children can’t swim the required 25m by the time that they leave their primary school.

This shocking statistic was released by ASA, the Amateur Swimming Association along with Kelloggs, and also reveals that of these, 39% haven’t been offered school swimming lessons, despite it being part of the national curriculum.

This effectively means that around 200,000 children will be leaving primary school this July unable to swim. And 75% of those will never have even had the opportunity to learn this life saving skill that is also important for overall fitness.

With drowning the third most common cause of accidental death of children in England and the number of deaths increasing year on year by 35%, the findings have been labelled as “concerning” by the Royal Society of the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA)1.

In response, the ASA and Kellogg’s will present ‘The 2012 School Swimming Census’ to government today outlining a six point School Swimming Manifesto calling for schools to prioritise swimming lessons so every child has the opportunity to learn to swim irrespective of socio-economic and ethnic background.

It will also outline the need to monitor school swimming as part of Ofsted inspections, prioritise school swimming budgets and improve training for primary school teachers.

The census highlights significant regional disparities in school swimming and water safety attainment as only 26% of children in Middlesbrough could swim the required 25 metres in 2011 compared to 91% in South Northamptonshire, uncovering a postcode lottery in provision.

The research also revealed the role of parents in helping their children learn to swim and discovered that without school swimming many children would miss out completely on the chance to learn as one in six (15%) parents admits they never take their child swimming.

Worryingly, it appears that nearly one in three parents (29%) don’t take their children swimming because they either can’t swim themselves or they do not feel confident enough in their swimming ability to help their child in the pool.

David Sparkes, Chief Executive of the ASA, the governing body for swimming in England that has taught millions of children to swim through its learn to swim programmes, said: “Children love swimming and it’s a great way to start them on the road to a healthy and active lifestyle. Swimming is also the only subject on the national curriculum that can save your life so it’s essential that government, schools and parents join us in taking action and break the cycle before we create a generation of non-swimmers unable to pass on this life-saving skill to their children in the future.”

David Walker, RoSPA’s Leisure Safety Manager, said: “We are concerned to see that so many children are struggling to swim at an acceptable standard. RoSPA believes that a good awareness of water safety and the ability to swim are essential skills, one which everyone should have the opportunity to acquire.”

The Kellogg’s Corporate Citizenship Fund and ASA also announced a funding package of £100,000, which can be used for school swimming projects that will help to increase the number of children learning to swim in the areas that need it most.

Bruce Learner, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Kellogg’s, said: “It’s vital we safeguard the future of school swimming and take action today to ensure that swimming remains the UK’s biggest participatory sport, enjoyed and supported by the whole nation.”