ASA Reveals 1 in 3 Children Can't Swim When Leaving Primary School

Shocking new research from the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) released today shows that 1 in 3 children now leave primary school unable to swim - up from the previously reported figure of 1 in 5.

The startling new research, carried out in conjunction with Kellogg’s, has revealed that around 200,000 children will leave primary school this summer unable to swim, amounting to an astonishing 2 million non-swimmers over the next ten years.

40% of Children Not Offered School Swimming

Perhaps even more shocking than children not achieving the National Curriculum target of swimming 25 metres unaided by age 11,  40% of those children who can't swim haven't even been offered the opportunity of learning to swim. This shows that the education system is failing children dramatically in its teaching of this essential life skill. More than 400 people drown each year in the UK, and that drowning is the third most common cause of accidental death in children.

The report states: "Each child should be safe in and around water, and a key element of this is being able to swim a minimum of 25 metres unaided. We call on central and local government to show their commitment to school swimming by reiterating this expectation to schools."

It also calls on primary head teachers to make swimming a priority in their school budgets and wants Ofsted to monitor the inclusion and delivery of swimming lessons.

David Sparkes, Chief Executive of the ASA, said, "Swimming is the only subject on the National Curriculum that can save your life."

Why is School Swimming Failing?

There are a number of reasons why school swimming has declined to this shockingly low level - these include:

  • a lack of access to facilities, especially since the dramatic fall in the number school pools in the last 20 years.

  • high transport costs to take children to local authority pools.

  • swimming not being a priority for many primary schools - despite it being on the National Curriculum Key Stage 2.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: "Swimming is a compulsory part of the National Curriculum, and all primary schools have a duty to provide swimming lessons for their pupils. By the end of primary school, pupils must be taught to swim 25 metres unaided using recognised strokes on their front and back and use a range of personal survival skills.

"We would expect that schools would take the needs of their children into account in making all decisions.

However, cuts in funding for education in recent years has meant schools are now not committing as much attention to swimming, especially when compared with subjects against which they are assessed on through league tables, such as Maths and English.

Campaign to Prioritise Swimming

In response to the findings of this new research, the ASA and Kellogg’s are today meeting with the government to urge parliamentarians, policy makers, local authorities and relevant organisations to prioritise the only sport that saves lives so every child has the opportunity to learn to swim irrespective of socio-economic and ethnic background. Total Swimming's Steve Parry will speak at a parliamentary reception at the House of Commons this afternoon.

There will also be a number of appearances by stars from the swimming world on national media throughout the day, including Steve Parry on ITV1's Daybreak and Olympic Gold Medallist Duncan Goodhew on BBC Breakfast.

School Swimming and Total Swimming

Since its inception in 2005, Total Swimming has campaigned for better provision of school children. Through its mobile pool programmes, British Gas Pools 4 Schools and Make a Splash London, a proven and effective model of delivery that achieves high attainment levels through quality teaching has been established. These programmes take mobile, steel tank 12 metre x 6 metre teaching pools to schools across England for 12 weeks at a time, targeting multiple schools in the local area for each project.

Both British Gas Pools 4 Schools and Make a Splash London are delivered in collaboration with the ASA.

The latest project in the Make a Splash programme, which is one of the Mayor of London's key Olympic legacy initiatives, was launched yesterday at Maria Fidelis School in Camden.

Double Olympian Melanie Marshall who attended this event said, “Swimming is an important life skill that all children should learn while having lots of fun in the process. The Make a Splash programme is making this possible for the youngsters here in Camden."

This project is supported by the London Borough of Camden and NHS North Central London.

The next British Gas Pools 4 Schools project at Barrs Hill School in Coventry is launched next Wednesday by Double Olympic Gold Medallist Rebecca Adlington.

Correlation Between School Swimming and Swimming Ability

The new research points to a direct correlation between swimming ability and school lessons. For example, all children in South Northamptonshire, where 91% of 11-year-olds achieve the government target, get swimming lessons at school.

Only 35 local authorities in England - around a quarter of those contacted - gave full responses to freedom-of-information requests from the team, relating to their records for 2011.

Would You Like a Pool at Your School?

The ASA is offering help and advice to encourage schools with their own pools to keep them open. However, this is not an option for many schools that have already lost their swimming facilities.

However, through Total Swiming two mobile school swimming programmes, there is an opportunity for schools to have a pool on site for 12 weeks 

For schools in London, visit the Make a Splash website by clicking here.

For schools in the rest of England, learn more about British Gas Pools 4 Schools by clicking here.

School Swimming: Make Your Voice Heard

Total Swimming would like to hear from anyone who is shocked and outraged by the state of school swimming. Please leave messages on our Facebook page and we will pass these on to policy makers in the ASA. You can also message us through Twitter @totalswimming.