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Does my son have to do swimming as part of the National Curriculum??

(10 Posts)
sarahlucy Sat 11-Jun-11 15:36:25

My son is 7 years old and suffers from a rare medical condition and has global developmental delay/hypoglycaemic brain damage; sight and mobility issues. Yesterday he went swimming at his school pool for the first time. He is in Year 2. I told the school in great detail what this would mean in terms of his medical condition - that he would need his emergency pack for blood sugars with him - and that he must follow a protocol. Also I told them that normally he is absolutely petrified of swimming pools. In the past he has never wanted to go anywhere near them, therefore it was his first time ever of getting in or even near a swimming pool. However, he was enthusiastic to give it a try with his friends so I gave my permission. I was told he would be in a small group of 4 and that there would be a swimming teacher and life guard. In addition there would be parent helpers in the pool. I also decided to go along to watch and be there just incase.
When I got there the lifeguard was seated at one end of the pool and my son was seated at the edge of the pool at the completely opposite end. His one to one told the lifeguard to be aware of my son, but he didn't seem in anyway bothered. My son was actually in a group of ten children all good swimmers and there was no parents in the pool to help. The teacher then went to the first child in the line (my son was second) and really loudly shouted instructions on how to lower themselves in the pool - the correct way of getting in. My son didn't understand and panicked that he was doing it wrong. As a result he jumped in, slipped and went under the water, he swallowed a lot of water and was distraught. The teacher just moved on and left him - panicking in the water. I immediately ran over and held him above the water and pulled him out. This all happened within seconds of this lesson starting. I then found that they didn't have his emergency pack and he had started to shake violently.
After I was sure he was ok medically, I took him home. Today he is extremely sick with vomiting, I guess after consuming so much water. I am furious about it all. I phoned the head teacher who just tried to dismiss it and tried to thank me for my feedback!! As the lifeguard/teacher were from outside agencies she said sometimes the communication is not great!!
This is a mainstream school and next year he goes into Year 3 - after this I am determined that he should not go swimming there at all. As it is I am waiting for the emergency GP to call and guess we will need him on a glucose drip .

Sorry for such a long, rambling post but my real question is if I refuse for him to have lessons at school next year (Year 3) when it becomes compulsory and part of the curriculum - what will happen??
Thank you

Jaspants Sat 11-Jun-11 15:54:55

Swimming is part of the NC but if they are not differentiating to meet his needs (which it sounds like they are not) then I think you are right to withdraw him.

coff33pot Sat 11-Jun-11 15:55:24

How awful for you and your ds!!! shock
And it is a great shame that he had the courage to give it a go with his friends and had such a bad experience due to the failure of those involved.

I have not had such an awful experience but I do know they state it as part of the curriculum. My ds cannot dress himself correctly and gets all worked up in group sessions of any kind. He went swimming (luckily at the end of the school day) came back with his uniform all twisted and he was soaking wet through his clothes and in such a state I didnt allow him to go again. I wrote a letter stating that not all children are able to dry themselves in such a quick alloted time and without assistance (my ds awaiting dx for AS) He has a 1 to 1 in school time and so unless someone is going to assist him then he is not going to the pool. I was told drying children is too personal and he needs more encouragement to learn to dress at home. Ds cannot stand the feel of clothes at the best of times so is anti dressing without persuasion and although getting better, rips his clothes off at any chance available.

They wouldnt help so ds didnt go and there were no repercusions back to me for insisting he wasnt.

Hope your ds recovers the poor mite and that he forgets this horrible experience smile

direlahere Sat 11-Jun-11 16:01:04

I would doubt that they could force you to have your son take part in swimming lessons in which they are not making reasonable adjustments, what happenned to your son sounds negligent to me, particularly as you had gone to the trouble of ensuring they knew what your son would need. I hope he is ok and that you don't need a glucose drip as it sounds like your son has already been through enough. Does your son have a statement describing his needs to which the school has access?

Seems to me from what other people have posted recently and from my own experiences that swimming is a real source of distress for parents and needs to be looked at as a whole to ensure that our vulnerable children are not being exposed to unneccessary risks without adequate individualised risk assessments and appropriate measures being put into place.

direlahere Sat 11-Jun-11 16:17:16

Just had another thought, had you not witnessed for yourself what happenned, would your son have been able to describe it to you? If not, I wonder what description you would have been given by those caring for your son at the time?

saggarmakersbottomknocker Sat 11-Jun-11 16:34:04

Your poor son. Swimming is part of the National Curriculum but they have to differentiate just like they do in the classroom.

I would ask to see their risk assessment and (if they can produce it) ask why it wasn't good enough/adhered to. To not have his medical pack with them is not good.

moosemama Sat 11-Jun-11 17:11:47

Oh your poor lad and poor you too, that's absolutely outrageous.

Swimming is part of the curriculum, but we were told we didn't have to give permission if we didn't want to - not sure how legally enforceable it is, but the DfE website states this.

My ds has a phew minor physical problems as well as sensory issues around water on his face and most of his course was spent trying to get him to cope with being in the water and getting his face wet. Like your ds, he has always been terrified of swimming, but wanted to give it a try with his classmates and it was a very bumpy ride to begin with. He did do the 25 metre assessment, but only with armbands and floats and an adult in the water alongside him - so essentially he did not meet the requirements of the curriculum.

As saggarmaker said, swimming has to be differentiated for, just like any other aspect of the curriculum and is therefore covered by the Statutory Inclusion Statement.

I would also be inclined to put my complaint in writing to them. Particularly how serious it was for them not to have his emergency pack and pointing out that you had specifically highlighted this as a requirement of him being allowed to take part. Blaming the outside organisation is not good enough - it is the school that has a duty of care towards your ds and they were responsible for making sure his needs were met. I would also inform them that you are If I were you withdrawing permission until a full risk assesment has been carried out. If, after the risk assessment has been carried out, they are unable to come up with a satisfactory plan of care for his participation, you would be more than justified in refusing permission.

If you feel you are not going be able to trust them again though and assuming your ds still wants to try again (and nobody would blame him if he never wants to go back) is there any chance you could go along yourself as his 1-1? I know our school is desperate to get as many parents to go along as possible, as it makes life much easier for them.

One last thought is, if your ds is now truly too frightened to get back in the water, could he possibly go along with the other pupils, to gain an awareness of water safety, without actually having to get in the water? You could possibly argue that that is appropriate differentiation, in order to meet his physical and mental/emotional needs. I know we had one child with behavioural problems, who wasn't allowed in the water for safety reasons, but was given the job of being the teacher's 'helper', so that he could still access some of the learning.

I really hope your ds feels better soon and doesn't end up needing the drip.

smileANDwave2000 Sat 11-Jun-11 17:52:01

I agree with moose and a letter of complaint to the head the lea and the govenors deffinately bloody barstewards

IndigoBell Sat 11-Jun-11 19:18:36

You can withdraw your son from swimming even though it's part of the NC. Because they have to make any reasonable adjustments. My school were quite happy for DS not to go swimming.

Also, they can't take your son if you don't sign the permission slip - which obviously you won't do.

sarahlucy Sat 11-Jun-11 20:57:54

Direlahere my son does have a statement and yes I think you are absolutely right, he would have been completely unable to describe or explain what had happened. Unfortunately I am pretty sure I would not have been given a true account by the school, had I not been there sad
saggarmakersbottomknocker and moosemama thank you for your advice regarding a risk assessment, I never even thought of that!! I will definitely pursue that with the school on Monday.
Thank you all for your replies I feel much more empowered now to know how to tackle this issue with the school next week. I was worried that they seemed to be just fobbing me off with the Head's response of thank you for your feedback!! really a disgusting thing to say!!
Thanks again - i'm now going to start a new thread for more advice on a different topic - which has been troubling me too !! xx

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