Swimming 25m is not enough

29th August 2003 at 01:00
Your front-page article "Pupils fail swimming test" (TES, August 1) was interesting but statistically flawed in parts.

You state that drowning is the third most common cause of accidental death among children under 16, with about 50 fatalities a year. This, I'm sure, is true, but the figures need looking at a little more closely.

I live close to Sutton Park, the largest urban park in Europe. We have five beautiful lakes and sadly have had quite a lot of drownings during the 30 years I have lived here. As far as I can remember, each fatality has been a swimmer, often quite a strong swimmer, who has got into trouble because of the cold temperature of a natural lake. Had they never learnt to swim, they would never have been tempted to go into the lake.

Many other child fatalities are in fast-moving rivers or the sea, when currents take them out too far. Whether the child could swim or not would have helped few of them. Has anyone got the time to analyse how many of those 50 drownings a year could have been saved by the key stage 2 requirement of being able to swim 25 metres in a heated pool.

By all means promote swimming as a healthy activity, but water safety is equally important. Water is dangerous and every care should be taken in and around it. On the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority website for water safety, the "water safety teacher area" does not exist. It is "under development". What use is that?

Mike Fowler

154 Boldmere Road

Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham

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