Will ASA school swimming charter finally get kids swimming?

I don’t know how many times I have to say this but schools (and some parents) really need to do more to encourage children to swim. Swimming is a compulsory part of the primary school curriculum, yet too many schools either ignore this completely or offer the bare minimum of swim coaching at their local baths – usually one term of swimming with 20 minutes allocated for each lesson.

The reason they can get away with it is quite simply that school inspectors OFSTED do not care about swimming. In fact I don’t think they care about sport at all. Schools are not penalised for failure to provide swimming lessons so even though it is a compulsory requirement they can simply get away with it.

Shockingly, nearly1,300 primary schools do not even bother to offer any swimming lessons at all to the kids.

What’s more, parents – many of whom are obsessed with school league tables – don’t seem to care what sporting facilities their child’s primary school offers either, as long as it is good educationally. So it’s no wonder then that just under half of kids leave Primary school unable to swim a length of 25 metres, despite swimming being a skill that could help save their lives one day.

And despite the fact that swimming is one of the few sports that very young kids can take part in without damaging their growing bones and muscles. At least the ASA (Amateur Swimming Association) is trying to do something about it.

Last month it launched an initiative for primary schools, backed by swimming Olympians like Duncan Goodhew MBE and Steve Parry, to sign up to its new School Swimming Charter, which will offer them help and support to provide swimming schedules for pupils.

The ASA is also asking politicians to support calls for OFSTED to be more rigorous in their assessment and reporting process of school swimming. Acting chief executive, Ashley Beaveridge, said: “Swimming isn’t just a leisure activity or a way for young people to keep healthy, it’s a life-saving skill that every child has the right to learn.

“Our research shows that school swimming is often the only opportunity many children have to learn to swim, so it is vital that we look at the barriers preventing primary schools from allocating the required time.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “We agree that swimming is an important skill to learn for life, which is why it is compulsory in the national curriculum for primary-age pupils and by the age of 11, children should be able to swim at least 25m unaided.”

“We are giving primary head teachers over £150m a year of ring-fenced funding to improve school sports, which schools can use to provide extra swimming lessons.”

Let’s hope it works and gets 100% able to swim a length by the age of 11, rather than just the half who are able to at the moment.

Here are just some of the shocking stats:

• Despite an increase in the number of pupils leaving primary school able to swim the minimum 25 metres unaided (as recommended in the national curriculum) parents are unaware of the required standard and in many cases their own child’s ability, due to a lack of assessment information

• A new report from the ASA shows that 40% of parents are not being informed of their child’s swimming ability, with the amount of time dedicated to school swimming neither known nor measured by school inspection and accountability body OFSTED.

• With 45% of children aged 7-11 years old (primary school aged) unable to swim a length unaided, and with one in 14 schools (over 1,300) offering no swimming provision at Key Stage 2, the ASA is calling for a continued spotlight on swimming in the curriculum in tandem with a far greater level of assessment.

• The ASA recommends that schools allocate at least 25 hours of study time a year per child to swimming, however the report shows that 55% of schools are not meeting these guidelines.

• Calls for every primary school in England to sign up to the ASA School Swimming Charter to pledge to prioritise the only sport that saves lives.

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