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A third of British 11-year-olds unable to swim, report finds

By Ben Coxon    27 Jul 2017
Only 52 per cent of pupils are reaching the minimum curriculum requirements for swimming / Shutterstock

A third of 11-year-old school pupils will finish Year 6 unable to swim, a report commissioned by Swim England has revealed.

The report, compiled by the Curriculum Swimming and Water Safety Group on behalf of Swim England – formerly known as the ASA – has revealed that 31 per cent of Year 6 pupils will finish school this summer unable to swim and without basic water safety skills, while 63 per cent of Year 6 parents fear that "their child could not save themselves in water".

The inclusion of swimming lessons and water safety lessons have been a part of the national curriculum since 1994.

It is expected that every Year 6 leaver should be able to swim unaided over 25 metres, use a range of strokes effectively and be able to perform self-rescue techniques in various water-based situations.

However, recent statistics show that only 52 per cent of pupils are reaching the minimum curriculum requirements, with one in 20 schools providing no swimming lessons at all.

This poor swimming attainment coincides with increasing numbers of children and teenagers who drown annually.

As the latest figures from the National Water Safety Forum show a 25 per cent rise, from 32 in 2015 to 40 in 2016.

According to the Group, these failings are are related to the cost of transportation to swimming facilities and pool hire, an unwillingness to disrupt the 'normal' school day and a lack of formal training for teachers leading swimming classes.

This is resulting in 53 per cent of primary schools either failing to provide any curriculum guided swimming lessons, or failing to achieve any of the three required goals.

Former Olympian and chair of the report Steve Parry said the statistics proves we are “failing our children”.

“Water safety is the only part of the national curriculum that will save children’s lives, it can’t be treated as an optional extra,” he added.

To tackle these issues, the group has suggested 16 recommendations covering a wide range of improvements.

These include: specific training for staff teaching swimming; new resources for delivering school swimming lessons; and a new national top-up swimming programme for schools with the lowest swimming attainment level.

Other proposals focus on greater monitoring and enforcement mechanisms for schools, further water safety education in secondary schools and continued work with international partners to improve standards and update the curriculum's swimming goals if need be.

Robert Goodwill, minister of state for children and families, said: “Swimming is a vital life skill and schools have a duty to teach children how to swim and learn about water safety at primary school.

“These findings show that more needs to be done to ensure all schools feel confident teaching swimming to students, which is why we will continue to work closely with Swim England to review the recommendations within this report.”

Swimming  UK  Education Policy  
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