Teaching children to swim to save lives


There is often much discussion around which skills should be taught in school and which skills parents should take responsibility for.

Research from the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) has highlighted the vital role schools need to play in teaching children to swim and has warned that half of seven to 11-year-olds in England cannot swim the length of a standard pool.

These statistics are made more worrying by the fact that drowning is the third largest cause of death in under-11s. So should this matter of life and death be the responsibility of teachers or parents? It should be a bit of both, although The UK Government has emphasised the role of schools in teaching children to swim by recommending pupils have 22 hours of swimming lessons per year, although it is believed that only 2% of state schools delivered on this recommendation.

Experts believe that schools should be prioritising swimming and that Ofsted should focus its PE inspections on swimming, as it is the only sport that can save lives. There are of course many reasons why some schools struggle to meet the 22 hour guideline; the cost of transportation, as many primary schools are not equipped with a pool, lack of time in the school day and increasing pressures to deliver top exam results. These all impact negatively on schools’ swimming provision.

There is some hope however, in the form of £150m funding from the government, towards school sports. ASA is calling for the lion’s share to be spent on swimming and water-safety skills. Hopefully schools will seize this opportunity and the chance to ensure future generations are more confident in the water.

I am still surprised when my contemporaries admit that they cannot swim a full length of the pool or even keep themselves afloat for a prolonged period of time. I was fortunate enough to benefit from out of school coaching as swimming lessons were practically non-existent in my primary school. It is a skill that stays with you for life and as a result I feel confident that if I or someone else got into danger in the water, I would be able to help the situation. Unfortunately, assuming that all parents will teach their children how to swim is too unreliable, due to a number of variables; income of the family, proximity to a swimming pool and whether working parents have enough time to take their children swimming.

More awareness is being raised about the importance of swimming and with additional funding being made available in September 2013, schools are uniquely placed to make a difference.  


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