How can it be that with all the noise recently created about the importance of children being active for their long-term health that we have the mad situation where one in three children reaches the age of 11 and still can't swim?
Startling new research carried out by Kellogg’s and the ASA (Amateur Swimming Association) has shown that around 200,000 children will leave primary school this summer unable to swim – creating a staggering 2 million non-swimmers over the next 10 years.
Drowning is the third most common cause of accidental death in children, yet nearly four in 10 children who can’t swim have never been offered school swimming lessons despite it being a statutory element of the National Curriculum – a stomach-churning thought for any parent.
Many parents will tell you that ‘swimming’ at primary school may just mean a handful of ‘getting wet’ experiences.
My daughter is a strong swimmer, but she certainly did not learn to swim at school. During those years that it should have been a ‘compulsory’ subject, she experienced a total of SIX lessons in years 4 and 5. That six hours included a significant amount of time in changing rooms!
As a parent who recognises that swimming is an essential life-saving skill, I took action early and enrolled her onto private lessons.
However, for many, the challenge of fitting swimming lessons around work and school, the cost involved, time-restrictive programmes, a shortage of places on courses and the subsequent waiting lists to get children started, it’s no wonder that we have these shocking statistics.
In the UK, we have a fantastic learn to swim programme devised by the ASA. David Lloyd Leisure’s Swim All Stars programme follows the ASA’s National Plan for Teaching Swimming, which is a world-recognised programme for teaching children to swim.
Children have a right and a need to learn swimming. I challenge anyone to argue that swimming, along with other sports and activities, is not as important as the three ‘Rs’. Go watch a swimming lesson at a local pool or, when you’re on a beach holiday, see how much they love splashing around and having fun while exercising.
Activity such as swimming is essential to their long-term health, and just as important, could one day save a life – their own or someone else’s.