School Swimming on Repeat – Nothing Changes

I refer back to a blog I wrote in 2021 (and in 2018) about School Swimming where I stated that nothing really changes in school swimming; and the latest ‘Levelling the playing field: the physical education subject report’ from the government this month sadly shows once again “pupils’ swimming and water safety attainment in primary schools is mixed”.

The OFSTED report cites the age-old reasons for this being in part because of the cost of transport and access to swimming pools, and in part to the challenges schools have faced because of COVID-19 (yes, the pandemic will have exacerbated the issue, but this was a problem way before we’d even heard of COVID).

Out of frustration, I dare to repeat myself; the fundamental ongoing problem with school swimming is that despite it being on the ‘national curriculum’, it is NOT inspected robustly enough, if at all, so subjects which are graded like Maths and English for example, will always be a school’s priority.

The report also states that many schools do not make full use of the PE and sport premium, which can be used to fund top-up swimming lessons, where needed. Why is it not being used? Especially when there are some involved in the sport that say the answer to school swimming is more funding – the funding IS there but it’s not being used by ‘many’ as the report confirms.

Yes, we can all agree that there are issues around pool access, transport, and teacher training, which in my opinion can be partly resolved for some schools as funding is there via the aforementioned sport premium funding for example – plus for those with a ‘will’ we’ve seen some amazing initiatives implemented by schools where pool access is an issue, i.e., pop-up pools in playgrounds.

There are solutions; but let’s be real, the crux is that swimming is not a priority for some schools because it takes too much time away from more ‘important’ lessons – lessons that a school will be inspected and judged upon. The truth is, is that subjects which are graded will always be a school’s priority.

I think it’s important we are all honest as this continues to be a serious problem, and year-on-year we keep reading the same reports. Unlike any other sport, learning to swim is a life skill and for a lot of children, especially those in low socioeconomic areas, school might be the only place they will be given the opportunity.

Once again, I repeat myself – we need to tackle the real issue and the government needs to recognise that school swimming needs to be made compulsory, they will repeatedly say it is, but we all know it’s not – granted there is no one size fits all solution, but by acknowledging what the real issue is, we might just find a solution for more children to learn to a key life skill and start to make a positive difference.

Let’s stop repeating the same mistakes and have honest conversations, so that we can give as many children as possible, the opportunity to learn a key life skill at school.

Swimming Teaching
Dave Candler

Dave Candler

Dave has been involved in teaching swimming and leisure management for over 20 years. Prior to becoming CEO, Dave worked for ten years as the Operations, Swimming and Training Manager at one of the largest publicly run swim schools in the country. It was there where he gained valuable, insightful front-line experience of the leisure industry. He also worked as an STA tutor, training many hundreds (if not thousands) of teachers and gained multiple qualifications that support his role today at STA.

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