Over half of primary school children cannot swim length of pool

A report in May 2013 by the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) .has revealed that over half of primary school children aged 5-11 years old cannot swim the length of a standard pool (25m) unaided. Sadly the situation in April 2014 has remained fairly constant.

This survey revealed that forty-five per cent of schools said that budget restraints were the main reason behind their inability to deliver better quality swimming lessons as part of the National Curriculum. A survey of over 1,000 parents of primary school children also revealed that only 40% of children are currently receiving swimming lessons at school.

The report, entitled ‘Learning the Lesson: The Future of School Swimming’, is the largest ever investigation looking at the state of swimming in schools, and it asked 3,501 primary schools across the country, how many of their pupils have attained Key Stage 2 swimming qualifications. Fifty-one per cent indicated that pupils aged between 5-11 were unable to swim one standard length of a pool without help.

Despite the Department for Education’s recommended 22 hours per year swimming target on the National Curriculum, the average state school spends only eight hours and 15 minutes a year on swimming lessons. A lack of funding coinciding with pressure to deliver better exam results have been cited as the main reasons why schools are failing to deliver adequate swimming instructions for its pupils. Ofsted has also been criticised for a lack of monitoring as schools are not required to show any evidence of their swimming programmes.

Research by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents suggests that drowning is one of the main causes of accidental death amongst children and young people and concerns are being raised that this trend is set to rise unless the current state of school swimming is addressed.

The ASA has called on Ofsted to include the inclusion and monitoring of compulsory swimming lessons as part of primary school inspections, as well as offering more training for teachers. It’s Chief Executive; David Sparkes, also believes that swimming and water safety should be made a priority in schools following the Government’s announcement of £150million ring-fenced funding for School Sport and PE in March.

He said: “Swimming is one of the easiest, safest forms of exercise for children of all abilities, and school swimming is the single most effective way of teaching children how to be safe in and around water. Yet swimming is one of the few areas of a child’s statutory education that is all too often left unmeasured, unchecked or, for 1.1m children, unfulfilled. The additional £150m of ring-fenced investment by Government for PE and School Sport this September can provide a real lifeline for school swimming. I believe that schools have a rare opportunity to seize the moment in September 2013, and take action by investing in an activity that has a lifelong legacy and the ability to keep future generations safe.”