Against the tide

THE state of primary school swimming, revealed in today's TES survey, leaves us with a sinking feeling.

Schools are required by law to teach swimming, yet thousands of 11-year-olds are unable to swim even 25 metres and one in 20 schools has done away with it altogether. When it comes to swimming, the curriculum seems to be notional rather than national.

This is not good enough. Teaching children to swim saves lives, as well as providing valuable exercise for a generation reared on fast food and video games.

And for many children, particularly those whose parents can't afford private lessons,there is no one else to do it. A depressing sign of the times is that a staggering one in five recruits fails the Royal Navy's basic swimming test.

This week's extra cash will ease budget pressures. And building new pools closer to schools would reduce the cost in both time and money of swimming lessons.

The bottom line, however, is that teachers need more flexibility in the curriculum. Headteachers' leaders believe that this might happen once the current literacy and numeracy targets have been met. But in the current political climate it's probably not advisable to hold your breath.

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