Covid, lockdown, Pool Closures…..

In May 2021 Swim England, the National Governing Body for Swimming announced the following, amongst other stuff, as part of their analysis of the impact of lockdown and the Coronavirus pandemic on school swimming:

  • 240,000 children have not learned to swim a length
  • 50,000 children unable to perform a safe self-rescue

The figures were published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group [1] for Swimming based on research funded by Swim England. Swim England warned of a ‘lost generation’ of swimmers.

The research indicated that 1.5 million primary school aged children had missed out on swimming lessons.
It led them to predict that 1.2million children will be leaving primary school over the next five years unable to swim.

“In five years’ time projections based on previous attainment rates year on year, show that only 43% of children in year 7, the current year 2s, will be able to swim 25 metres unaided. Based on projected pupil population estimates, this equates to 282,000 children in year 7 able to swim 25 metres. This would be around 235,000 fewer children able to do so compared to the last reported total of year 7s in the 2019/20 academic year.”

Catherine West, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Swimming was reported as saying “Even before Covid, we were seeing some worrying inequalities between the outcomes for black children and children from other ethnically-diverse communities, as well as children from less affluent families.”[2]

The report calls for schools to do a number of things, including running “catch up sessions” for pupils who missed out on lessons due to the pandemic…” holiday clubs targeted at pupils who are not meeting the curriculum requirements”, “sharing information when pupils move from primary to secondary school” [4] and publishing school swimming and water safety attainment levels.

It also points out that schools are able to use the PE premium [3] to improve their school swimming and water safety attainment levels.


[1] All-Party Parliamentary Groups are informal groups of Members of both Houses with a common interest in particular issues. The views expressed are those of the group.

[2] Pre- Covid surveys had reported that around 86% of children from more affluent families in Year 6 could swim 25metres while that figure dropped to 42% for children from less affluent families.

[3] The primary PE and sport premium was introduced in March 2013 to improve the provision of physical education and school sport in primary schools across England. … The funding is ring-fenced, which means it can only be spent on improving PE and sport provision. This means it may only be spent on improving the provision of PE and sport in schools. Many schools use the funding to provide additional top-up swimming lessons to pupils who have not been able to meet the 3 national curriculum requirements for swimming and water safety. Since 2017, schools must report on the attainment figures for all year 6 pupils for swimming and water safety. https://www.swimming.org/library/documents/3260/download

[4] Swimming is not included in the PE Curriculum for Secondary Schools. In their major 2017 review, Swim Group noted that there was clear evidence “that water safety lessons should not stop at Key Stage 2″. They added “In 2015, 32 young people drowned, 23 of whom were aged between 15 and 19-years-old. Research shows a correlation with young people feeling they are more confident in the water than their ability suggests.”
They recommended that “Secondary schools …work with national water safety groups to ensure intervention messages are strongly reinforced at Key Stage 3 and 4 to reduce the high number of incidents in these age groups.”

Figures for drowning accidents in the UK show that whilst there are few accidents involving primary age children while it is significantly higher for secondary age children. WAID Annual Fatality Report (https://www.nationalwatersafety.org.uk/waid/annual-reports-and-data )for 2020 reported just one drowning for 5 – 9 year olds, 4 for the 10 – 14 age group but 22 for 15 – 19 year olds.