Taskforce calls for swim audit

20th July 2001 at 01:00
Better water safety is recommended. Craig Kenny reports

A national audit of swimming facilities and a programme of water safety lessons have been recommended by a Government taskforce on school swimming.

The call follows the death of 11-year-old Bunmi Shagaya who drowned in a lake while on a school trip to France earlier this month. Bunmi had not attained the national curriculum standard of being able to swim 25 metres - she had a certificate for swimming 10 metres.

A 1999 Office for Standards in Education report for her school - Hillmead primary in south London - said that all pupils achieved this standard, although it noted that assessment and recording procedures in PE were "under-developed".

Former education minister Jacqui Smith set up a taskforce on school swimming last year after a TES survey found that one in 20 primary schools did not teach swimming.

Last November, an Ofsted review found that one in five pupils could not swim 25 metres by the time they had left primary school and that water safety was not taught well.

The Amateur Swimming Association's chief executive David Sparkes, who is on the taskforce which will report in December, said: "We have agreed to collaborate with the Department for Education and Skills in providing some web-based water safety resources for youngsters and teachers."

The ASA hopes after the audit of facilities that lottery funds will be spent in the areas of highest need.

"Some parents don't see swimming as a high priority," he added. "The DFES has to stress that it's a life-saving skill as important as reading, writing and maths."

An ASA survey of 3,800 schools in 1998 found that more than half of school swimming instructors do not have appropriate swimming qualifications and only 35 per cent of primary school instructors have a life-saving certificate.

A Qualifications and Curriculum Authority spokesman said: "The existing curriculum flags up water safety as an issue to be addressed. At key stage 2 children should be able to use a range of recognised strokes and personal survival skills.

"The taskforce will be looking at how that translates into lessons."

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