A new survey on children’s swimming skills has rung alarm bells around the UK.
Some 45% of seven to 11-year-olds cannot swim one length of a pool, according to the Amateur Swimming Association.
These findings come in the wake of recent reports that two-thirds of adults can’t perform critical water-safety skills.
The ASA believes 100% of primary school leavers should be capable of swimming this far, but in reality, almost 1,300 primaries do not offer swimming lessons – despite it being on the national curriculum.
Each child needs to spend about 25 hours learning to swim, but the current average is just under ten hours, the association warns.
“Some 200,000 additional school children would leave primary school able to swim 25 metres unaided if schools took swimming seriously,” says the ASA report.
Ashley Beaveridge of ASA comments: “Swimming isn’t just a leisure activity or a way for young people to keep healthy, it’s a life-saving skill that every child has the right to learn. As such, it is concerning that despite school swimming being a national curriculum requirement, nearly 1,300 primary schools still do not offer swimming lessons. It is vital that we look at the barriers preventing primary schools from allocating the required time.”
These barriers are likely to include increased pressure on schools to deliver good exam results and squeezed budgets, the report suggests.
In my experience, swimming lessons are fairly popular at pre-school age, but tail off when school starts and free time is much more limited.
My toddler has spent just three hours in total at swimming lessons, and certainly needs much longer in order to stay afloat in a life-threatening situation.
The ASA report adds that Ofsted should focus PE inspections on swimming as “it is the only sport that can save lives”. I couldn’t agree more.