School swimming in Merton improves as report reveals over 1.1 million pupils in England cannot swim


More than half of schoolchildren cannot swim 25m unaided.


By SWLondoner staff

Merton Council has been praised for their work in teaching school children to swim as a new report reveals that more than 50% of pupils in England cannot swim 25m unaided.

Last year, the council was ranked in the bottom five in England in terms of the number of children leaving school not achieving Key Stage 2 targets.

Councillor Maxi Martin, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said that the results shocked the authority into action.

“We had to set about redressing what was obviously a big problem,” she said.

Since then, the local authority has worked closely with schools across the borough to successfully turn things around.

“We found that by the end of year 4, many pupils were not achieving the 25m goal in the National Curriculum,” said Ruth Whymark, headteacher of Cranmer Primary School.

“So we thought we would introduce swimming at a much younger age – in the summer term of year 2.”

The findings come after the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) surveyed 3,500 different schools and found that over 1.1 million primary school children are not safe in and around water.

It also announced that schools are not achieving anywhere near the recommended delivery time of 22 hours swimming, with the average state school pupil spending just  8 hours 15 minutes a year in lessons.

The report highlights the fact that swimming lessons are often neglected because schools are not required to show Ofsted evidence of their swimming programme.  

Budget constraints are also to blame, with almost 45% of schools stating the biggest barrier to better quality school swimming was budget constraints, having to pay not only for the cost of lessons but also for transport to the pools themselves.

This September, every primary school will receive at least £9,000 ring-fenced funding for PE & School Sport, and the ASA is calling for schools to put this money towards improving swimming provision.

“Swimming is one of the easiest, safest forms of exercise for children of all abilities, and school swimming is the single most effective way of teaching children how to be safe in and around water,” said David Sparkes, Chief Executive of the ASA

“Yet swimming is one of the few areas of a child’s statutory education that is all too often left unmeasured, unchecked or, for 1.1m children, unfulfilled.”

Drowning is amongst the leading cause of accidental death of children and young people in England. In 2011 there were 407 deaths from drowning reported across all age groups, of which 47 involved children and young people under the age of 19.

Photo courtesy of by Department for Communities and Local Government, with thanks.

Follow us @SW_Londoner

Related Articles