HL Deb 17 September 2003 vol 652 cc185-6WA
Lord Moynihan

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether one in six pupils leaving primary school is unable to swim 25 metres, despite the legal requirement to include swimming at key stage 2 in both England and Wales; and [HL4376]

Whether it is the case that 20 per cent of United Kingdom state schools charge for swimming; and [HL4377]

Whether they are satisfied with the level of basic water safety technique training in schools; and water programmes they have in place to improve swimming standards in schools. [HL4378]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland)

Our Physical Education, School Sport and Club Links strategy, being implemented jointly with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. provides targeted support to enhance school swimming. A recent survey carried out jointly by the Times Educational Supplement and the Central Council for Physical Recreation found that 84 per cent, or five in six pupils are able to safely swim, at least, 25 metres by the end of key stage 2. This is a modest improvement on the position reported to us by Ofsted in 2000—When 80 per cent, or four in five pupils in England, achieved this target.

In its report, Ofsted noted that only in a minority of schools was water safety and survival not covered sufficiently well. The quality of teaching was good or better in four out of five lessons and in one-third of lessons, teaching was very good. Swimming is a vital personal and social skill, and an essential part of the PE national curriculum programme of study. Our swimming strategy is taking forward all of the key recommendations made by the Swimming Advisory Group. We have:

  • created a new swimming and water safety website which provides practical support for schools and swimming teachers;
  • carried out a pilot programme which tests out how best to support those children who reach the end of key stage 2 and are not able to swim 25 metres. Over 1,000 pupils have benefited from the scheme; and
  • plans to publish a swimming charter before Christmas. This will set out guidelines, share best practice and provide the practical support to help schools overcome many of the challenges they face when planning and delivering swimming.

Furthermore, as part of its wider provision, the PE and School Sport National Professional Development Programme will help to improve the quality of swimming teaching throughout England. The programme will identify where there is most need and provide specific professional development and support to help ensure high quality swimming tuition in schools.

No charge can be made for the cost of providing swimming lessons that take place wholly or mainly during school hours, or for the cost of transport to carry pupils to and from the lesson. Similarly, no charge can be made for lessons, or transport, that take place outside of school hours where the lesson is part of the national curriculum. Schools can ask for voluntary contributions to cover the cost of swimming activities, but when requesting the contribution it must make it clear that no child will be treated differently, or left out of the activity, because their parent is unable or unwilling to make the contribution. The department does not collect data on the percentage of maintained schools that request financial contributions towards swimming provision.