Up the creek…

‘More must be done’

A report states almost a third of 11-year-olds in England leave primary school unable to swim. The survey for Swim England asked if the could save themselves if they gt into trouble in water.

Steve Parry, a former Olympic swimmer and chairman of a report urging an overhaul of school swimming. Figures released today last year revealed that 321 people lost their lives in accidental drownings in the UK in 2015.

Ministers agreed “more must be done” to improve school swimming but of course constant cuts to school funding makes this almost impossible.

“Water safety is the only part of the national curriculum that will save children’s lives, it can’t be treated as an optional extra,” said Mr Parry. This is a great idea and is already part of the national curriculum but just how many primary schools have swimming pools?

It’s about one quarter which means that the other three-quarters of primary schools travel to local authority pools for lessons and transport can be time-consuming and expensive. If time is spent travelling it means other lessons are dropped in favour of swimming and with the curriculum being so tight it may well mean a loss of something such as science or history.

The report, compiled after eight months of research, points out that the National Curriculum requires all children to be able to swim 82ft (25m) by the age of 11 – but says that too many schools miss the target. And this is clearly because of the time and money spent organising visits to a local pool and a government that is happy to see cuts and enforce a curriculum decided not by teachers or educators but by Members of Parliament who have no training in education whatsoever’ lack the understanding needed to create a good curriculum and see more worried about the UK’s position in the PISA tables than a good education for our children. In his foreword to the report, Mr Parry called the figures “unacceptable” and he is right. If he squeeze some money from the government then great, if not, the figures will not change.

The independent report, by a group of sporting and educational bodies called Swim Group, was commissioned by the government. Its recommendations for swimming and water safety teaching include:

  • a new national Top-Up Swimming programme to ensure all children reach statutory standards
  • a new swimming achievement award for pupils
  • better swimming resources for schools
  • swimming to be included in the next national curriculum review
  • better training for staff who teach swimming

The authors say that schools tend to “prioritise subjects for which they are graded” and says that if school inspections paid greater attention to swimming this could be a “silver bullet” for standards.

“Swimming is a vital life skill,” said Children’s Minister Robert Goodwill and said the government would work closely with the authors to review the recommendations, a year on and still nothing has happened. More hot air I fear.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary designate of the National Association of Head Teachers, hits the nail on the head. He agreed swimming was a crucial life skill but added that schools needed more resources “to hire a pool, pay for qualified instructors and to arrange transport”.

He added: “At a time when budgets are being pushed beyond breaking point, many schools find it difficult to deliver anything outside of the academic core.

“The government must invest, or risk seeing a further decline in swimming amongst primary age children.”

When most schools can barely find the money for essentials because of government cuts I cannot see any hands going in the pockets to fund this.

The recent announcement of just over a billion ponds for schools means that schools will receive 0.5% extra whilst some schools are taking a 10% loss over all.