Aberdeenshire primary heads have rejected plans for intensive swimming lessons in curriculum time although over half the pupils aged between seven and 10 cannot swim up to 25 metres. Heads claim it would be disruptive and over a third believe it is a parents' responsibility.
The council is now planning to encourage learn-to-swim programmes by appointing two development officers to cover the entire north-east area. Pupils and their parents could be charged 20p a lesson with the money pooled to offset the costs of the new posts.
A survey of primaries brought a two-to-one rejection of plans to include a block of 10 lessons over two weeks for P3 to P6 pupils. Returns show there are more than 5,400 pupils who cannot swim a reasonable distance. Almost 3, 500 cannot swim even 10 metres.
Some heads suggested parents should be responsible for providing swimming tuition after hours and poorer families given vouchers. However, council officials point out there are already waiting lists at most pools and that a concessionary rate already exists.
"This does not help the child whose parent is either unable to get the child to the pool or is not motivated to do so," officials say.
The number of swimmers has dipped since Aberdeenshire stopped primary swimming three years ago. The education department of Grampian Region used to inject around Pounds 500,000 annually to subsidise schools in the districts. Each pupil in P5-P7 had 10 lessons a year lasting 30 minutes.
Ian Milne, recreation lead officer, said the survey showed many pupils in rural areas could not swim, partly because of the costs of transport. He hopes development officers will persuade headteachers to take up free time in pools during the day.
"If it's going to happen in school time, there's a fair bit of work ahead. We're going to have to convince headteachers," he conceded.