Not exactly in the swim

15th September 2006 at 01:00
If your researcher, Jon Slater, who surveyed swimming in schools, had bothered to look at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents'

water safety factsheet on the internet, he would have discovered the true reason why compulsory swimming lessons in this country are never going to be implemented. We don't actually need them ("Swimming neglect risks lives", TES, September 1).

According to Rospa, a total of 40 children, not 50, were drowned in this country in 2002. Of these, 17 were pre-school age, 11 were pre-Year 5, and practically all the rest could already swim. So anyone who thinks swimming is an essential life skill should be carted off by the men in white coats.

The real reason why compulsory swimming was introduced is that the Institute of Baths and Recreation Management put pressure on the Government over the need for more tuition fees to keep the swimming pools open - evidently with little success in some parts of the country. I am all in favour of more lifesaving skills tuition, more facilities being built, and the sport being promoted as a competitive one. But how come, in the Amateur Swimming Association's guide to swimming teaching and coaching, there is no mention of competitive swimming at all in its list of reasons to learn?

We can only teach children to swim as far as resources allow, as was recognised when the parents' guide to the national curriculum stated that the law on compulsory swimming tuition would not be enforced until all schools could afford to comply with it - in other words, when hell freezes over. Trying to teach every single child in the country to swim is neither practical nor necessary.

Trevor Hart. 47 Ransom Road Woodbridge, Suffolk

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