Swim­ming skills are sink­ing at pri­mary schools

Three-quar­ters of teach­ers re­port con­cerns about the fea­si­bil­ity of con­tin­u­ing swim­ming les­son pro­vi­sion

TES (Times Education Supplement) - - INSIGHT - HE­LEN WARD

ADAM PEATY has brought Bri­tish swim­ming back to the cen­tre stage this sum­mer, win­ning two world ti­tles and break­ing his own world records – twice.

But a snap poll for Tes has found that high costs and time pres­sures mean that teach­ers are find­ing it much harder to help their pupils learn even the ba­sics of swim­ming.

Of more than 1,000 teach­ers who re­sponded, only a quar­ter said that their school had no prob­lems pro­vid­ing swim­ming lessons for pupils. The rest all cited ob­sta­cles – with the cost of trans­port the most men­tioned.

The Twit­ter poll (see box, be­low) came af­ter a re­port from the Cur­ricu­lum Swim­ming and Water Safety Re­view Group found that one in three chil­dren leaves pri­mary school with­out the swim­ming skills ex­pected for their age.

The group – which in­cludes the Depart­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion, sport­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions and the NAHT heads’ union – also found that around one in 16 schools does not of­fer swim­ming at all.

And only a third (36 per cent) en­sure all chil­dren meet the three na­tional cur­ricu­lum mea­sures of swim­ming 25 me­tres, be­ing able to use a range of strokes and be­ing able to “per­form safe self-res­cue”.

“We want lots more Adam Peatys, but, ac­tu­ally, the most im­por­tant thing is to get those ba­sic aquatic skills and be safe in and around water,” Jon Glenn, Swim Eng­land’s Learn to Swim and Work­force di­rec­tor, says.

Gov­ern­ment sup­port for a na­tional cam­paign on school swim­ming and water safety is one of the 16 rec­om­men­da­tions in the re­view group’s re­port, along with in­ten­sive swim­ming lessons.

Here, we ex­plain why swim­ming has be­come a dif­fi­cult is­sue for some schools.

What level of swim­ming are schools re­quired to pro­vide?

The na­tional cur­ricu­lum states: “All schools must pro­vide swim­ming in­struc­tion in ei­ther key stage 1 or key stage 2.

“In par­tic­u­lar, pupils should be taught to: swim com­pe­tently over a dis­tance of at least 25 me­tres, use a range of strokes ef­fec­tively and per­form safe self-res­cue in dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions.”

Swim­ming is not men­tioned in the na­tional cur­ricu­lum for key stage 3 or 4. The cur­ricu­lum re­view group rec­om­mends that sec­ondary schools should work with water safety groups, as re­search shows that teenagers may feel over­con­fi­dent in the water – 32 young peo­ple drowned in 2015, of th­ese 23 were be­tween 15 and 19 years old.

What do schools ac­tu­ally do?

Only about a third of pri­mary schools en­sure all chil­dren reach all three cur­ricu­lum goals, the re­view group re­ported. It also found that around 6 per cent of schools do not pro­vide swim­ming lessons at all.

The av­er­age time a class is in the pool is 33 min­utes and the av­er­age num­ber of lessons is 16, the re­port re­veals.

Glenn says: “For some schools, it is too dif­fi­cult, there is no pool nearby. In some ru­ral ar­eas, it makes sense to be de­liv­ered in sec­ondary schools and I’m com­fort­able with

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