Get children back in swimming pools is message from Swim England

Get children back in swimming pools is message from Swim England

Children are being urged to go back to the swimming pool after figures showed more than two million schoolchildren in England lost out on lessons during the pandemic.

Swim England, the sport’s governing body, is concerned children have not only missed out on physical exercise provided by swimming lessons but may not return as pools open again, with schools prioritising other aspects of education to catch up on time lost to the pandemic.

Statistics compiled by Swim England show that more than five million swimming sessions, the majority of them swimming lessons, were lost during the pandemic and its chief executive, Jane Nickerson, urged parents and schools to get swimming again.

“The message to parents is please send your children back to lessons,” she said. “To the schools please, please do your swimming lessons. Swimming is great for physical health and we are understanding more and more about its benefits for mental health. But swimming is also an activity that actively saves lives. With summer upon us, I fear for children’s safety in the water and would strongly recommend parents and guardians to be proactive in making up for the lost time.”

Swimming is mandated as part of the school curriculum in England until key stage 2, or age 11, when children should be able to swim proficiently over a distance of at least 25 metres and perform safe self-rescue.

“A lot of schools have not gone back to school swimming at the moment,” Nickerson said. “It is part of the curriculum, it should be done. I know it can be hard … when you need to catch up on academic work but swimming is absolutely, desperately important to children, especially when it’s in an area of high deprivation and you know parents can’t afford to send their children to lessons.”

Nickerson expressed concern for the health of swimming in the country more broadly. Two hundred pools have already been forced to close permanently since the pandemic began withmore likely, Nickerson believes, owing to a lack of revenue due to social distancing and a shortage of emergency funding from government.

“The £100m leisure recovery fund has helped but it’s a drop in the ocean to what the facility operators need in order to be able to fully open with social distancing and keep going,. It could be that if the local authority has four pools, they open two and not open the others. On paper that might look fine, unless you live across the city from the one that’s open.”