Swimming skills are sinking at primary schools
Three-quarters of teachers report concerns about the feasibility of continuing swimming lesson provision
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