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Primary Schools aren't meeting children's needs in terms of swimming lessons. How much does your child do?

(81 Posts)
Sommink Thu 23-May-13 08:20:07

I really am interested in finding out how much your primary school children swim? This is as a parent of a primary school child and as a swimming teacher. Do you leave swimming to the school or do you pay for private on top?

Apparently children are supposed to do 12 hours swimming with the school a year. I know that that doesn't happen where I live as I am the school swimming teacher. I am also aware of just how may children cannot swim and never meet the guidelines of 25m without aids. This is partially because when I am trying to teach 35 kids to swim by myself there is such a difference in standards, from club swimmers to children that have never seen the pool you don't get the opportunity to give the new swimmers the time and input they need.

I am a firm believer in getting all children to swim, but what's the solution if schools and parents cannot afford to do more? One school in an area I used to live stopped taking children that could obtain the minimum of 25m so the non swimmers got more focus, is this a solution for schools on a budget?

Just wanted your views and wisdom really.

motherofvikings Thu 23-May-13 08:26:06

Where I used to work it started as every child in y4-6 got 12 wks of swimming.

Then they stopped y6 swimming and sent y3 instead. They said most y6 could swim so no need. (This wasn't strictly true!) hmm

Then budgets were slashed and when I left only y3 swam and that was for 12wks.

My dc have had Saturday swimming since before 1yo as I doubt schools will be able to afford to offer anything useful by the time they hit ks2.

Wuldric Thu 23-May-13 08:26:40

We paid for swimming lessons. They went on from when DD was 4 to when DS was 11, so nine years in total of spending every Saturday afternoon in a hot smelly swimming pool. I used to take a newspaper and read it through. They are both completely competent in the water now, so it is worth it. DD did some minor competitive swimming when she was at primary so that involved dive training and several weekly practices.

Tbh I think the schools should either give up trying to teach swimming or teach it properly. School lessons were a waste of time

Wuldric Thu 23-May-13 08:28:05

Also think that the ability to swim 25 meters in a chlorinated pool is not enough to keep you safe should you fall in a fast flowing river, for example. Nowhere near. The bar is set ridiculously low and the schools are failing even to meet that.

OddBoots Thu 23-May-13 08:29:42

I think it was very short sighted of the government to remove the free swimming for children, if they retained this and the schools focused on the non-swimmers then more children would have the chance to learn and retain the skill/exercise.

dh and I taught our children to swim and dh takes them regularly (leaving me to my study time).

Damnautocorrect Thu 23-May-13 08:35:07

I don't feel it's schools responsibility its a parents, but if you are looking at things now surely the only way to effectively use those 12 weeks is take the non swimmers?

I had swimming lessons at school I can't swim all it did was scare me to a point that i truly hate swimming / water now as the instructors were not very good with the non swimmers, fab with the swimmers though.

blueshoes Thu 23-May-13 08:43:48

Swimming at schools is a waste of time. My dd was complaining she was expected to do the breast stroke but no one had time to teach her to do it. The children were grouped by ability and the differentials were probably largely due to which of the children had group or even better one-to-one lessons outside the school. I topped up with private group lessons of about 8 a class for dd but in 30 mins, she only had at most 5-10 minute of teacher time, most of which was waiting by the side of the pool. She hardly made any progress. It was only when I paid for one-to-one private lessons that I started to see progress.

My ds 6 has had one-to-one lessons for a few months is in the top swimming group at his school swimming lessons. IMO the children need to have swimming lessons and time outside of the lessons to practise in order to learn swimming properly. But the public pools are so crowded there is never enough space for them to practise without bumping into someone every few metres and health and safety so ludicrous that they are not allowed into the deep fitness pools, even with me an adult present where they can practise in the lanes. So we are now in that chicken-and-egg aka no man’s land where the children have nowhere to properly practise to get to 25m swimming without aids without me forking out a fortune in private school fees to do it with the teacher present. My next goal is to get a club membership so I have access to a fitness pool and where H&S is not so crazy so they can practise away.

OohMrDarcy Thu 23-May-13 08:43:53

DD is 6 and having private lessons. She has a level 6 (ASA) and 100m badge, I have no idea if her school do swimming lessons, but if they do I doubt she will do much learning - but its still good excercise

DS is 3 and can swim with a woggle (although more upright than DD at his age) he is starting to learn the basic techniques and will start proper lessons when he starts school too

I think school lessons should be for those who haven't had the opportunity to learn before then - and others just have it as an exercise session

Shanghaidiva Thu 23-May-13 08:51:02

How can one person run a swimming lesson for 25 kids? this is not a criticism of you, but what you are being asked to do is completely unrealistic.
My children are outside the uk, but have 6 weeks of swimming per year - one 45 minute lesson per week for 6 weeks. DD in year 2 has 20 kids in her class - PE teacher, class teacher and TA are all in the pool and the class is split into 3 groups to ensure those who are not confident are given the support they need.
I don't think school lessons are enough to teach a child to swim. DS started swimming lessons at 5. I was in Austria at the time and paid about 30 quid for 6 lessons. This included entry to the pool which was not open to the public during the lesson time.

kimmills222 Thu 23-May-13 08:56:04

Swimming in schools, preschools and nurseries is very good for the children. Kids get the opportunity to learn swimming and the parents need not have to take them privately for the purpose after the schools or during holidays. But if it is taught under good supervision only then the purpose is fulfilled. Otherwise its all a waste of money.

magichamster Thu 23-May-13 09:05:47

My dc have private swimming lessons, or did have, as they can now swim strongly.

The infant school here do not go swimming at all. At the juniors they have the pool for an hour per week. For the whole school.

So, what they do is take all the children swimming in y3 and the teacher assesses them. If they can swim then they do not swim with the school. If they can't then they are offered lessons.

I think they should all get at least a term each year regardless of how well they can swim. We live by the coast and to me it's as essential as learning to cross a road or ride a bike safely. Water safety should also be taught.

MRSJWRTWR Thu 23-May-13 09:25:22

It would never have ocurred to me to leave the task of teaching my children to swim to their school.

DS1 started group lessons when he was 5 and continued until level 6ish when he was competently swimming lengths. His primary school had swimming lessons every week for all of Y4.

DS2 (6yrs) is about level 5 and goes for a group lesson every Saturday morning. He has also had a few months of 1 to 1 lessons to improve his freestyle/breathing technique. His school have a swimming lesson once a week, for one for one term per year, for every year group.

Both have moaned about going but as far as I'm concerned there is no getting out of it. You learn to swim, if you dont want to take it further ie. competitions etc, fine but first you learn to swim well.

caffeinated Thu 23-May-13 09:29:55

We have always paid for ours when they are infant age. Before a fear of water can set in. (I am a non swimmer) school provides 40 mins of swimming for the whole of year 5 at no extra cost.

ArtemisKelda Thu 23-May-13 09:31:55

DS hasn't had a swimming lesson at school yet, he's Y2. He's been going to lessons at our local pool for the last year and is far more confident in the water now.

HabbaDabba Thu 23-May-13 09:41:06

It never occurred to us to leave it to the school. We took ours to the local pool when they were 6-7. Once they mastered the basics we put them into Saturday morning lessons for the next 5 years.

Should the school do more beyond the basic x hours each year? Not IMO. It's a leisure activity.

lynniep Thu 23-May-13 09:49:21

From the gov website :

The Government is committed to ensuring swimming takes place in schools. Swimming is a compulsory part of the current National Curriculum for PE and will remain a compulsory part of the new curriculum when it is released.

Whilst schools must ensure they have sufficient access to suitable facilities for swimming lessons, it is not a requirement that they have pool on site as the school is best placed to assess what facilities best fulfil its needs.

By the end of Key Stage 2 (age 11), pupils should be taught to swim unaided for a distance of at least 25 metres, using recognised strokes, on their front and back, and demonstrate an understanding of water safety). It is up to primary schools to decide when, and at what point they wish to teach this.

When pupils are in KS2 years (Years 3-6), swimming activities and water safety must be chosen as one of their areas of activity unless pupils have completed the full KS2 teaching requirements (in relation to swimming activities and water safety) during their Key Stage 1 years (Reception and Years 1 & 2).

Within the law, parents do not have a right to withdraw their children from this statutory element of the National Curriculum.

**Schools can ask for a voluntary contribution towards swimming trips as long as they make it clear that it is voluntary. Schools must not exclude any child because of unwillingness/inability to pay.

lynniep Thu 23-May-13 09:56:17

At our school, we don't have a pool (the other school down the road does which is the one our school uses) which means the children have limited swimming lessons.
DS1(Y1) has had one set so far when he was in reception. An hours session once a week for 5 weeks.
Its a token gesture really and I'm glad they do it as its fun for the kids, but I don't expect it and I can't imagine they learn much in those limited sessions - both mine have private lessons which will continue (at great expense) until they can swim a decent amount.

I do feel that its a very important skill though, and I understand why its compulsory - even if the funding is not there to allow the schools to enable it 'properly'. I feel we are very fortunate to be able to afford to fund it privately.

Seeline Thu 23-May-13 09:58:37

My DDs school does NO swimming at all. they used to take the Y3 but the year my DS was due to start the Council withdraw the transport subsidy and hte school couldn't afford the coach costs so stopped it (4 years ago).
My DCs have never had swimming lessons apart from a coupe of intensive courses over half terms which I have paid for. DS now has them at secondary school every week (they have their own pool), but could swim 25m before then. DD (Y4) can manage a few strokes but no more - hoping to fix that this summer on holiday.

JWIM Thu 23-May-13 09:59:42

Swimming is a national curriculum requirement so schools have to provide it at present. It is very onerous on schools - time, cost especially if coach travel is involved, staff/parent support - and another example of education providing a 'safety net' for those pupils who would otherwise not learn to swim, or have sex ed from parents, or may be vulnerable for all manner of reasons. I am happy that schools provide a safety net, but I do think that they should be funded to meet this 'social care' role in addition to providing an education.

My children started swimming before age 1 and had weekly lessons until each reached 12/13. They also went swimming in year 1 and 2 with school for the whole of each year. I was happy for them to do this as it was part of school and to some extent they learnt other skills than swimming as it involved coach travel to the pool etc. I could also, fortunately, afford the 'voluntary contribution', something I know is a growing issue for many household budgets. The school has significantly cut back on swimming since my DC were there due to fewer parents paying so greater pressure on school budget. Now they do the bare minimum 1 term per year for one year (year 3).

I would agree with the OP that school lessons with the bare minimum time, combined with large class numbers, is unlikely to result in many children advancing their swimming ability significantly.

Realistically I think that swimming should be dropped from the curriculum. It pains me to write that as I do think it is a very important lifeskill. Sometimes difficult choices need to be made.

PastSellByDate Thu 23-May-13 10:03:49

Hi Somnik:

Here it is Years 3 & 4 that swim. They do it in a block of afternoons over two weeks - I suspect they get slightly more than 12 hours, since they leave school right after lunch and return at end of school day, just in time for pick up.

We also take swimming lessons outside of school, but this is because grandparents who live outside UK have swimming pool which is fully open, so there was a risk of falling in. Also we frequently go lakes or sea side - and again swimming skills are essential there.

I will say that our lessons seem very good value - because we're paying £3.50 for a 50 minute lesson with very qualified coaches & it includes free badges when you have achieved swimming levels (national swimming scheme through Amateur Swimming Association) + a 'splash session' at end of term.


Bramshott Thu 23-May-13 10:05:21

The kids in our school go for the summer term of Y2 and the summer term of Y3 so about 20 weeks in total. It's fairly expensive though - mostly because of the cost of the bus (£60-£70 per term IIRC). I'd be amazed if that was enough to teach kids to swim from nothing without extra-curricular input, but I guess it might be enough to stop them being scared of the water/teach them some basic life-saving skills.

MrsMelons Thu 23-May-13 10:16:46

I did not know schools had a responsibility to do this. I pay for lessons for my DCs and always have done, the local pools are all free for children also so could just take them myself if I wanted to.

I personally think it is the parents responsibility. It doesn't have to be expensive but I do appreciate that it does have a cost attached even if you take them yourself. Some people genuinely can't afford it but 12 hours is not necessarily enough to teach a child to swim (depending on age maybe?)

I know a few parents who say they can't afford it for their DC but it is roughly £5 per lesson where my DCs go, all these parents take their DCs to soft play each week which is a lot more than £5 per session.

exexpat Thu 23-May-13 10:19:48

DS's school swimming lessons were worse than useless. They were 'taught' by one of the school teachers, rather than a qualified swimming instructor, big groups, hardly any time in the pool etc. He finished year 6 officially unable to swim 25m.

The following summer he was going on a PGL camp that required children to be able to swim 50m to do some activities, so together with another boy in his class I booked a few private lessons (one teacher, two boys, half an hour on Saturday mornings). Within two or three weeks he was swimming 100m+.

If schools are meant to teach swimming, they need to have teachers who actually know how to teach swimming not basically chuck the children in the pool to splash around, supervised by their class teachers, and expect them to learn by magic.

StickyFloor Thu 23-May-13 10:39:33

Our experience of school swimming lessons was laughable.

10 weeks x 30 mins in the pool in Y3 and Y4.

32 kids in the pool, no adult in there with them, just on the side barking instructions.

The ones who could already swim were taken into the deep end and seemed to have a great time.

The ones who couldn't swim stayed in the shallow end and spent a ot of their time stood around playing with floats. It is no exaggeration when I say that after his 20 weeks ds never once took his feet off the floor or got wet above the armpits. there were others who seemed to do the same, just walk around in the pool holding a float and talking to their friends.

Total waste of time.

And incidentally, there were 3 incidents of near drowning - too many kids and too much noise without enough adults is not a safe environment.

Tiggles Thu 23-May-13 10:43:23

DSs' school start swimming in year 3. They have lessons for half of each term, so about 20lessons a year or so.
They have taught DS1 to swim, although it took a while.

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