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Benefits go far beyond Channel

Your article "Swimming goes under" (TES, August 1) was read with great interest by the principal and physical education staff of Westholme school, Blackburn, as they waited with 16 girls, between the ages of 13 and 18, for calm winds and the right tide for the youngsters to swim the Channel.

At Westholme, all girls entering the senior school, and indeed all staff, must be able to swim 25 metres unaided.

The policy is in agreement with your comment that "literacy and numeracy skills are important but so is swimming". After 18 months of preparation the girls in the Channel swim teams successfully completed the challenge in around 12 hours, but they take away far more than the triumph and the obscure greatness of becoming a Channel swimmer.

The teamwork between the different age groups has been amazing. The dedication and strength of character needed to overcome the real fears of jellyfish, tankers, cold and indeed of failure have been manufactured within the team.

The courage that this challenge gave the girls has given them confidence, kudos, a sense of purpose and real achievement. It has given them drive and one pupil has now decided to train for a solo swim.

Swimming, like any other physical activity, can do more than just raise academic achievement and promote a healthy lifestyle.

It allows pupils to succeed, to be forward-looking and enthusiastic, to have challenges and goals. So the pound;459 million that the Government is investing in school sport seems a small price to pay.

Annie Woodhouse, Deputy headteacher Westholme School Meins Road Blackburn Lancashire

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