School Swimming

Swimming in Darlington - publication for Schools [pdf document]

Introduction - Department of Education

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.

By the end of Key Stage 2 (Year 6) 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 and 2). Information taken directly from the Department for Education official website.

A.S.A. Call to Action

According to a report released by swimming’s governing body, the ASA and Kellogg’s entitled ‘Learning the Lesson : The Future of School Swimming’, more than 1.1 million primary school children are reported to be unable to be safe in and around water.

3,501 primary schools were surveyed on how many of their children have attained Key Stage 2 swimming requirements. It found 51% of children aged 7 to 11 cannot swim the length of a typical swimming pool (25 metres) unaided.

The average state school pupil spends just 8 hours and 15 minutes a year in swimming lessons at school, which is far less than the 22 hours study time the Department for Education recommends in the current National Curriculum.

With drowning amongst the leading cause of accidental death of children and young people in England (according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), experts are worried these numbers could increase in future if the current issues with school swimming programmes are not addressed. In 2011, there were 407 deaths from drowning reported across all age groups, of which 47 involved children and young people under the age of 19 years old.

Where schools are achieving high attainment rates amongst their pupils, it is attributed to better pupil-to-teacher ratios, longer lesson times and a higher number of lessons offered.

In September 2013, each primary school will receive a minimum of £9,000 additional ringfenced funding as part of the Government’s £150 million injection into PE and School Sport. The ASA is calling for curriculum swimming and water safety to be a priority with schools, to ensure that every child has the opportunity to swim 25 metres by the time they leave primary school.

Section 1 - Swimming in the National Curriculum For Key Stages 1 and 2

Swimming and water safety remains a mandatory element of the National Curriculum. The mandatory requirement is for all pupils to achieve a minimum standard of swimming ability before they finish Key Stage 2 (end of Year 6). The National Curriculum programme of study for swimming and water safety is detailed below:

Key Stage 1 (5-7 years of age)

If schools choose to teach swimming at Key Stage 1, pupils should be taught to:

  • move in the pool (for example, jump, walk, hop, and spin, using swimming aids and/or support)
  • float and move with and without swimming aids
  • propel themselves in water using different swimming aids, arms and leg actions and basic strokes

Key Stage 2 (7-11 years old)

During the course of Key Stage 2, pupils should be taught to:

  • pace themselves in floating and swimming challenges related to speed, distance and personal survival
  • swim unaided for a sustained period of time over a distance of at least 25m
  • use recognised arm and leg actions, lying on their front and back
  • use a range of recognised strokes and personal survival skills (for example, front crawl, backstroke, sculling, floating and surface diving)

Section 2 - What children should be taught at Key Stage 2

The National Curriculum defines a programme of study for Physical Education. Each task should cover the four aspects of knowledge, skill and understanding required by the PE National Curriculum. It is essential that swimming in schools use all four aspects. Core aquatic skills are the foundation to learning to swim. There will always be an emphasis towards acquiring and developing skills, but this should not be to the detriment of the other aspects.

Attainment targets

Attainment targets set out the knowledge, skills and understanding that pupils of different ages and abilities are expected to have by the end of each key stage. They consist of eight level descriptors of increasing difficulty. Level descriptors outline the types and range of performance that pupils working at that level should typically demonstrate. The majority of pupils at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 are expected to work within levels 1 to 5.

Water safety

Not only is swimming good for a child’s health, it could also potentially save their life. Drowning is the third most common cause of accidental death in children in the UK and learning to swim and the basics of water safety is vital. Lifesavers, The Royal Life Saving Society UK and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents have developed a joint water safety code [external link], which is endorsed by the ASA.

It is recommended that children should be taught the Water Safety Code from the beginning of Year 1 and orally assessed on its content throughout Key Stages 1 and 2 to ensure an understanding of the principles and content. 

Aquatic skills

Here are the main aquatic skills that pupils need to develop as they take their journey through school swimming:

  • Entry and Exits
  • Buoyancy and Balance
  • Rotation and Orientation
  • Streamlining
  • Aquatic Breathing
  • Travel and coordination
  • Water Safety
  • Health and Fitness

Swim skills - building technique

The development of effective and efficient strokes on the front and back are major objectives of the swimming programme of study. This is a good time to work on developing sport specific skills and excellent techniques on all four strokes. A multi stroke approach will ensure interest levels remain high with the result that swimming should continue to be fun.

Stroke development in relation to speed and distance

Wherever possible, children should be given the opportunity to sustain beyond the minimum requirement of 25 metres and to develop speed. These two components will provide children with the possibility of becoming involved in competitive swimming and other aquatic activities and will help to meet some of the health and fitness requirements of the National Curriculum.

Introduction to other aquatic activities

The ability to swim is often a pre-requisite for many other aquatic activities. The Dolphin Centre provides a comprehensive range of aquatic activities to provide a more rounded swimming education.

DASC – Darlington Amateur Swimming Club

DASC are based at the Dolphin Centre and provide an excellent opportunity for competitive swimming.

Section 3 - Ensuring everyone gets to the minimum standard

Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups

Many children from BME backgrounds may be non-swimmers when participating in school swimming lessons for the first time. For many faith groups, modesty is the key issue with regard to swimming and mixed sex sessions would not be permitted. With these factors in mind, the Dolphin Centre can make the following amendments to provision following consultation between the school and the families:

  • Consultation with relevant departments within Darlington Borough Council and/or interfaith groups
  • Alternative arrangements such as single sex classes.
    • Using same sex teachers for classes.
    • Operate flexible clothing codes.

Pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN)

  • Pupils with SEN should be identified to the swimming teacher well in advance of lessons, so they can adapt their lessons accordingly and ensure effective communication
  • Most children who require additional help will be able to join in with the rest of their class, with activities simply adapted to their needs. Some children may not be able to take part in this way and in this instance lesson programming should be reviewed
  • In groups with a number of pupils with disabilities, the ASA recommends that the lesson should be led by a swimming teacher who holds disability specific qualifications or CPDs. Institute of swimming [external link]
  • If a number of pupils with physical disabilities will be attending the swimming lessons, care must be taken to ensure that the pool and surrounding areas are suitable. The Dolphin Centre has hoists to the training pool and main pool
  • The ASA provide a range of resources including a swimmer identification toolkit and a booklet ‘Inclusion of Swimmers with a Disability’, which gives information and advice so that teachers can become better informed and have access to the best possible teaching practices. Email for more information
  • For further support there is a network of ASA accredited clubs that have specialist knowledge on swimming for disabled adults and children. To find out where your nearest club is, email

Section 4 - New Service for Schools: KS1 and Practical Water Safety - our guarantee to schools of a 100% pass rate

What schools are telling us are the barriers to all children reaching the KS2 standard

  • Transportation
  • Pressures on other curriculum areas
  • Releasing further time for children and teachers to be out of the classroom
  • Funding

No child should enter secondary school being unable to swim 25 metres

We are introducing the following additional support available to schools. This support is optional but we feel provides the solution to ensure all children in Darlington meet the Key Stage 2 minimum requirements.

Lessons will be available at Key Stage 1 or lower Key Stage 2 for children the year before they are due to participate in Key Stage 2 swimming with their school. 20 x 30 minute lessons will be available. These will be available out of school time to eliminate issues with transportation and the pressure in other curriculum areas.

The school would fund these lessons direct with the Dolphin Centre making the lessons free to parents, leaving the only responsibility for parents to take them to their lesson.

The Dolphin Centre will

  • Provide lessons, allocating pool space to facilitate these
  • Include a water safety briefing on the child’s final lesson following ASA guidelines which will include highlighting the risks in swimming in open water following the recent fatalities across the country
  • Report to the school the names and progress made by each child at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2
  • Provide a guarantee and commitment to get every child to the minimum standard required at Key Stage 2. Any child that has utilised the guarantee package and is unsuccessful at the end of Key Stage 2 will be individually assessed and provided a further course of recommendations and tuition to ensure they meet the standard before entering secondary school
  • Offer additional resource and time to ensure that Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups and Pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) are successful at meeting the minimum Key Stage 2 standards before secondary school