By Charlotte Jennings, Head of PE and Girls’ Games at Edge Grove School
Swimming is an important part of a child’s early years learning and development both physically and mentally. Where possible, having the facilities and opportunity to swim both during the autumn and summer terms also gives pupils greater exposure to the water over a longer period of time throughout the school year. Younger children often need specialist teaching in the pool and may need to work on building water confidence and basic fundamentals before moving into larger pools for instance.
Swimming is about developing confidence and competence in the water so that children are able to enjoy swimming at both a leisurely and competitive level, whilst ensuring they also understand the health and wellbeing benefits of swimming.
Being able to swim is an extremely important life skill and should be available to everyone in both primary and senior education. Not only is swimming an essential lifesaving skill, it is also an easily accessible way for everyone to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle and a positive mental wellbeing.
Swimming is an inclusive sport that anyone can take part in whether you are a team player or an individual performer. Swimming provides us with the freedom to take part in lots of activities throughout our lives. Many opportunities throughout education in school, college, university and work and socially as an adult, can involve contact with water, which requires swimming competence.
Sadly there are still too many adults today that are unable to take part in these opportunities and could be putting their lives at risk, as they never learnt to swim and are now too afraid. Learning the basic performance and lifesaving skills in school at an early age can also provide pupils with job opportunities whilst studying at school and university and could go on to offer a range of career paths as an adult.
Despite national requirements stating that all pupils in key stage 2 should be able to swim 25m unaided, unfortunately for many children this is not the case. Any good PE curriculum should be designed to ensure that all children are given the opportunity to take time to build safety awareness and water confidence. From the age of five, regardless of whether parents have the chance to take their child swimming outside of school, each child should feel confident and happy in the water before learning the movement skills.
Through carefully planned and differentiated lessons, with more than one teacher and at least one adult in the pool, pupils should feel comfortable and assured in the water. From here and throughout each key stage, pupils should work at their own pace on the development of their stroke technique, entry in and out of the pool, speed in the water, competitive swimming techniques and lifesaving skills.
In the case of Edge Grove, all pupils from Year 3 upwards are able to take part in its annual swimming galas, with many of our pupils joining local swimming clubs and teams. Last year we had more than one team successfully competing in the IAPS competition with one team qualifying to represent Edge Grove at the Nationals.
We believe that providing all children with the opportunity to learn the basic swimming and lifesaving skills in schools is vital. We are equipping children with a basic skill that is as important as learning to walk, speak and write.