Olympic silver medalist urges MPs to take action as a quarter of children can’t swim a length of a pool by 11
- Four in ten primary schools do not offer swimming lessons at all
- Only 72% of those in their first year of secondary school can swim 25 metres
- Olympian Sharron Davies urged Ministers to come up with ‘practical solutions’
Olympian Sharron Davies has urged Ministers to take action after new figures revealed more than a quarter of children can’t swim 25 metres by the time they leave primary school.
Sport England said 72 per cent of those in their first year of secondary school can make it from one end of a standard recreational pool to the other. This compares to 78 per cent before lessons were stopped during the pandemic.
Four in ten primary schools do not offer swimming lessons at all – despite it being a National Curriculum requirement – and pools are struggling to stay open due to rising heating costs.
Davies, an Olympic silver medal winner in 1980, said: ‘We had a problem with this before Covid – and then Covid came along and closed all the pools. Lots of swimming teachers left the occupation, and now we’ve got the heating expense problem.’
Olympian Sharron Davies has urged Ministers to take action and come up with ‘practical solutions’ for children’s swimming lessons
She urged Ministers to come up with ‘practical solutions’, such as offering intensive summer-holiday courses to those who cannot swim by the time they leave primary school.
She said: ‘I believe whole-heartedly that all children should be given the opportunity to swim. Because it’s a life skill, it’s something you can do from the cradle to the grave. You can do it if you are pregnant, if you are disabled, and in the later years of life.’
A Sport England survey found that 38 per cent of primaries offered no swimming lessons during the last school year, up from 34 per cent pre-pandemic.
The proportion providing fewer than ten lessons per year then rose from 18 to 23 per cent. Children from poorer homes are much more likely to end up non-swimmers than their wealthier classmates, according to Sport England and separate body Swim England.
New figures revealed more than a quarter of children can’t swim 25 metres by the time they leave primary school
Ms Davies added: ‘It’s always kids in deprived areas who miss out the most, because parents who can afford to send their kids to private lessons will get them swimming. That’s why schools are so important.’
Emma Griffin, of Swim England, warned: ‘There are parts of Manchester where teachers say they have kids who have never stepped foot in a pool before having school lessons.’
A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘We have made swimming and water safety compulsory parts of the National Curriculum at primary school.
‘The National Water Safety Forum has launched new water safety resources, which teach children how to be safe in and around water.’
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