I participated in this year’s annual CoastSafe Forum at the Maritime Museum in Falmouth. It was led by local police officer, Truro Crime Manager, Andy Mulhern who is also the RNLI Community Safety Advisor. The forum brought together a wide range of public sector bodies and charities that work together to ensure that we are all doing everything we can to prevent people drowning. A lot of good partnership work is being done locally and the number of people dying in the waters around Cornwall’s shores is falling.
Andy’s key request to me was to ensure that the government enables all primary school aged children to be taught to swim and stay safe in and around water.
So, following the forum, I met with Ministers to take up the local concerns raised with me. I was not alone in making the case for vital changes and am delighted with the announcement last week, that Primary schools in England are set to receive extra support and improved guidance to help make sure all children can swim confidently and know how to stay safe in and around water.
Working in partnership with Swim England, the Department for Education and Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport announced extra help for schools to make sure every child knows how to swim and be safe in and around water by the end of primary school, supported by the £320 million PE and Sport Premium.
To coincide with the announcement, Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi and Sports Minister Tracey Crouch have also backed a pledge by Swim England – signed by the likes of British Olympic swimmer Steve Parry – calling on teachers and parents to do all they can to ensure children are taught swimming and water safety at primary school.
The extra support will help deliver the government’s sport strategy ‘Sporting Future’, which committed to ensuring that every child leaves primary school able to swim. It includes:
- using the PE and Sport Premium for extra lessons for children who have not yet met the national curriculum expectation after core swimming lessons, and extra training for teachers on water safety and swimming techniques through courses provided by Swim England;
- extra guidance, provided by Swim England, will be available to help schools deliver safe, fun and effective swimming lessons; and a drive to boost partnerships with independent schools to offer the use of facilities, coaching and other forms of support to schools in their area.
The measures announced follow a government-backed review of swimming and water safety in primary schools, which found that swimming standards vary in schools, despite being compulsory on the national curriculum.
Steve Parry, Olympic bronze medallist and Chair of the Swimming and Water Safety Review Group, said:
“Since my competitive days I’ve been championing the need for all children to be taught swimming and water safety at primary school. Along with Swim England and the Swim Group, we have been working to raise awareness of the issues and provide support for all those involved in the delivery of curriculum swimming and water safety.
Ensuring our children are able to enjoy the water safely is everyone’s responsibility. That is why it’s great to hear the government is raising awareness of the issue and pledging its support. We want everyone – schools, parents, lesson providers, decision makers – to do likewise and pledge to support schools to achieve our joint vision.”
This announcement is part of a drive to tackle childhood obesity and help children to lead healthy, active lives, with more than £1 billion invested in schools through the PE and Sport Premium to improve PE and sport since 2013.
It comes after the Education Secretary announced a cross-government school sport and activity action plan that will consider ways to ensure all children have access to quality, protected PE and sport sessions during the school week and opportunities to be physically active throughout the school day. The action plan will be launched in spring 2019.
First published in the Falmouth Packet 31/10/18