In at the deep end

25th September 1998 at 01:00
All pupils must be able to swim 25 metres by the age of 11. How do primary schools ensure that they do? Adam Jezard dives in to investigate

The news that swimming had survived as part of the slimmed-down curriculum hardly caused waves of concern in education circles.

But you don't have to delve too deep to discover a rising tide of worries.

The Amateur Swimming Association, with the English Schools' Swimming Association and the Royal Life Saving Society, has published an alarming overview of school swimming. The Swim for Life study, which is based on a survey of 3,807 schools and other research, found that: * 54 per cent of school instructors don't have appropriate swimming qualifications.

* Only 35 per cent of primary school swimming teachers possess a life-saving qualification.

* 68 per cent of schools received no financial support from their education authorities for this subject.

* Only 14 per cent of primary schools have their own pools, many of them outdoors.

* 41 per cent sought parental contributions to finance what is still a compulsory subject.

* About 23 per cent of schools report a decline in swimming because of cash shortages.

"Giving cash to schools for swimming as part of their delegated budget is not the way forward," says John Lawton, director of education for the ASA. "If heads have a choice between spending money on maths books or swimming, maths books will win every time.

"We'd like to see cash for swimming ring-fenced and given to schools by the Government or the education authority."

Neil Bramwell, of the ESSA, says: "Office for Standards in Education inspectors don't have to report on how many pupils have reached the required amount of lengths. This may add to schools' reluctance to spend time on it."

Get in the swim

The ASA runs free courses sponsored by British Telecom.

Those on offer include: * An eight-hour course, after which teachers can assist qualified swimming instructors.

* An 18-hour course, after which teachers can assume full responsibility for a group.

* Once ASA qualified, teachers can apply for the BT Top Sport swimming equipment bag, which contains Pounds 250 of equipment and educational materials. They will also get a National Curriculum Training Pack, containing ideas for cross-curricular teaching.

* Training is free, but it takes place in school time and no provision is made for supply teachers, equipment or use of facilities.

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