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Primaries chop swim lesson time

And thousands of 11-year-olds can't swim 25 metres when they start

secondary school. Jon Slater reports.

MORE than half of primary schools have cut the amount of time pupils spend swimming during the past three years, inspectors have found.

The report reinforces concerns raised by the findings of a TESCentral Council of Physical Recreation survey conducted earlier this year. It found that one in nine primaries fails to teach even half their pupils to swim a length of their local pool.

Swimming in key stage 2, published this week by the Office for Standards in Education, also reveals that thousands of 11-year-olds start secondary school every year unable to swim 25 metres unaided. Under the national curriculum, every child should be taught to swim 25 metres by age 11.

Inspectors are also concerned about children's survival skills. "In a worrying minority of schools water safety and survival is not covered sufficiently well," the report says.

OFSTED reports that headteachers blame lack of money, increased pressure on curriculum time and the closure of local pools for the decline in swimming.

Pupils in the inner-cities and those at schools where a high proportion of children receive free meals are the worst hit.

Meanwhile, half of schools offer no specific help for pupils who are non-swimmers or reluctant swimmers.

Pupils in rural areas get the best deal. More than nine in 10 learn to swim 25 metres unaided.

Nigel Hook of the CCPR, an umbrella body which includes teaching unions and sports governing bodies among its members, said: "This report is extremely disappointing for the Government. There is no point in putting swimming in the curriculum if you don't set aside time and resources for it."

However, inspectors were impressed by the standard of teaching. Pupil progress was judged to be good in three-quarters of lessons and the teaching of swimming was rated as good or better in four out of five.

WHAT SCHOOLS SHOULD DO

Introduce swimming as early as possible in key stage 2

Formulate a clear policy and devise effective teaching strategies to ensure all pupils can swim 25m by the end of KS2

Target funding at children who cannot swim

Ensure that the national curriculum water safety and survival guidelines are followed

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