School Swimming

By the time a child is ready to leave primary school they should be able to swim, know how to get out of trouble if they fall into water, know the dangers of water and understand how to stay safe when playing in and around it.

It is part of the national curriculum PE programme of study for England, so all local authority-maintained primary schools must provide swimming and water safety instruction. Schools have a statutory obligation to teach swimming and water safety to all pupils during Key Stage 1 or Key Stage 2. The national curriculum sets out three outcomes which all pupils must be able to demonstrate they can meet before they leave Year 6.

It is important that all pupils are supported to meet these requirements before they leave primary school. This includes those with special educational needs, those with a disability or impairment and those whose first language is not English.

The overall aim of primary school swimming and water safety instruction is to introduce children to the water – particularly those who may not have already been in a swimming pool or had lessons. The emphasis is on ensuring all pupils have the basic skills to be able to enjoy the water safely and know how to safe self- rescue if the worst happens.

The three national curriculum requirements

The minimum requirement is that, by the time they are ready to leave Key Stage 2, every child is able to:

• swim competently, confidently and proficiently over a distance of at least 25 metres
• use a range of strokes effectively
• perform safe self-rescue in different water-based situations(1)

It is expected that many pupils will achieve more than these minimum expectations. Therefore, school swimming programmes should also provide opportunities for these pupils to further develop their confidence and water skills.

This year’s Sports Premium Funding can be used to fund the professional development and training that are available to schools to train staff to support high quality swimming and water safety lessons for their pupils. In Lancashire we offer two options.

1. The LPDS Getting to Grips with School Swimming 1 day course
2. The Swim England Support Teacher of School Swimming Award, this requires up to 8 hours online learning prior to attending the Swim England practical day.

Both of these CPD courses will be bookable via the LPDS website PE courses.

Details – LPDS Resources (

The premium may also be used to provide additional top-up swimming lessons to pupils who have not been able to meet the national curriculum requirements for swimming and water safety after the delivery of core swimming and water safety lessons. At the end of key stage 2 all pupils are expected to be able to swim confidently and know how to be safe in and around water.

Schools are required to publish information on the percentage of their pupils in year 6 who met each of the 3 swimming and water safety national curriculum requirements

Primary School and Accompanying Teachers/Adults

  • • It is suggested guidance that a minimum of two members of school staff should accompany children swimming: a School Teacher, HLTA or TA. This will be dependent on the cohort of children and the needs within each class.
    • The school is accountable for their pupils’ attainment and progress. Therefore, regular dialogue should take place between school teachers and swimming teachers to ensure both are aware of the progress made.
    • The school should be aware and agree the overall programme and lesson plans to ensure they fit with the national curriculum requirements.
    • School teachers are required to provide up-to-date, accurate registers of those attending the lessons. They should also advise about any individual medical treatment needs or special requirements.
    • School teachers are responsible for highlighting any concerns about the pace or content of the lessons, and how the pupils are responding.
    • School teachers/accompanying teaching assistants/support staff are responsible for general order and discipline. Together, they should maintain high levels of supervision in the changing rooms, on poolside and while pupils are in the water.
    • School staff should play an active role supporting learning and dealing with behaviour and welfare issues.
    • At the end of each lesson, the school teacher should discuss the progress made by the class and report back to the school/parents.
    • At the end of the swimming programme, schools must publish details of how many pupils within their year 6 cohort have met the national curriculum requirements. Therefore, good communication between the swimming teacher/ provider is important.

Schools must ask to see the SLA (service level agreement) from the pool prior to school swimming sessions and school should meet with swimming providers prior to each academic year to discuss the expectations from the school with the service the pool provider is offering.

Assessing progress and attainment

School teachers are accountable for pupils’ attainment, progress and outcomes(2). Therefore, the school teacher should be aware of what their pupils are doing at all times, how well they are progressing and what they need to do next in their learning.

To support teachers to do this, regular and frequent dialogue should take place between school teachers and swimming teachers. This helps to ensure both parties are aware of what the pupils are being taught and what they are learning. This could be recorded by the provider and shared with the school, or the school teacher could record the progress directly at the end of each lesson. There are

In Lancashire we are adding our new Swim England Swim Charter Lesson Plans to the Lancashire PE Passport App to support the teaching and learning of school swimming.

Swim Refusal

There are a growing number of children and families who are refusing to swim. Ultimately parents do not have the choice. Schools must deal with each case sensitively and try to establish the reason behind individuals not wanting to partake and act upon this.

Lancashire Legal Services suggest …

School must reiterate it is a statutory part of the national curriculum as is English maths and science lessons so parents can’t withdraw their children from it. It is not the parents’ choice; it is the responsibility of the school.

Schools must keep explaining the benefits to the parents and keep encouraging them to participate .

If children fail to attend then it will unfortunately be classed as an unauthorised absence unless there is a certified medical exemption relating to the child themselves which could ultimately result in fines


First try to attempt each week to talk the pupil round – this could be with a swimming kit that school provides – and then the consequence put in place if the child refuses to get changed/go in the pool.

Schools approach this in the same way they would if a child was refusing to do maths or science. By this stage we would probably be recommending consequences in line with the behaviour policy – perhaps completing a project – why it’s important to learn to swim.

Children must attend the pool and the consequence takes place each week the child refuses to get in the pool.

We need to be very clear to the parents that their child is to go swimming and refusing is not an option.

However, if parents produce a doctor’s note stating the school swimming is making the child ill and it is backed up with a medical reason we then have to follow the medical guidance from the GP.

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