Swimming and water safety should be taken even more seriously due to the ‘astonishing and worrying’ number of children leaving primary school unable to swim.
English, mathematics and science are currently the only core subjects on the national curriculum across all key stages.
However, Edward Timpson, Former Minister for Children, the MP for Eddisbury in Cheshire, said there was evidence of schools reducing PE time, raising issue on whether physical education should be made a core national curriculum subject.
He said ‘better scrutiny’ was needed around school swimming to ‘ensure that all children get what they are entitled to’.
Mr Timpson told MPs: “There is evidence of PE being side-lined by some schools as a ‘nice to have’, rather than a ‘must do’, reducing PE time in order to focus on catch-up in other areas, which is understandable but to the detriment of PE. “I want to mention swimming and water safety. It is a statutory element of PE that every 11-year-old is required to be able to swim competently, confidently and proficiently over a distance of at least 25 metres. “Despite the requirement being in place since 1994, one in three children, around 200,000 every year, leave primary school not being able to do so.
“I find that astonishing and worrying,” said Mr Timpson. “It lends further credence to the need to take swimming even more seriously as an essential life skill.”
Whilst it is not classed as a ‘core’ subject, swimming and water safety is specifically referenced in the National Curriculum. The curriculum requirements are that by the end of Key Stage 2 (year 6), pupils are expected to be able to:
– Perform safe self-rescue in different water based situations
– Swim competently, confidently and proficiently over a distance of at least 25 metres
– Use a range of strokes effectively
Jane Nickerson, Swim England chief executive said it was good to see this important issue being debated by MPs. “We know that too many children leave school unable to swim and be safe in and around the water,” she said. “We have produced a suite of materials to help schools confidently deliver school swimming and water safety lessons and we also continue to work with the Department for Education on classroom-based additions to the curriculum to further support schools.