HC Deb 14 December 1993 vol 234 cc818-9
5. Ms Hoey

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what measures have been taken to increase the number of children leaving primary schools who can swim.

Mr. Robin Squire

The national curriculum for physical education requires that all pupils should by the age of 11 be able to swim unaided at least 25 metres and demonstrate an understanding of water safety. This requirement becomes effective from August next year.

Ms Hoey

Is the Minister aware that there is great concern not just in the Amateur Swimming Association but among all people who care about young people being able to swim and a fear that there may be some going back on that commitment in Sir Ron Dearing's review of the national curriculum? Will the Minister give a commitment that swimming will remain part of the national curriculum and say what concrete measures will be taken to ensure that all primary schools can afford to get their children to swimming pools, which causes great difficulties in inner-city areas? What resources will be put in and will he ensure that they will be available when needed?

Mr. Squire

The hon. Lady is right to emphasise the importance of swimming. That is why it features in the national curriculum, as it has done since 1992, along with other physical education requirements. There has been significant funding of the national curriculum in recent years. We believe that it should be possible for the minority of schools that do not currently have access to swimming pools to find additional funding from their existing resources.

Mr. Hawkins

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the tragedies in Britain is that small children still die from drowning? It is extremely encouraging that almost 70 per cent. of primary schools now have swimming pools on site and more than 80 per cent. provide swimming training.

Mr. Squire

I agree absolutely with my hon. Friend—[Interruption.] It sounds as though my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins) has struck a chord. I endorse what he said and remind Opposition Members, who may have overlooked the report, that in late 1989 a survey showed that more than 80 per cent. of primary schools had access to swimming facilities of one sort or another. I concur with my hon. Friend's views on the importance of the subject, as I said in answer to the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Ms Hoey).