Government urged to reopen swimming pools with one million children missing lessons

The government has been warned that the closure of the country’s swimming pools is a matter of life and death and that failure to provide schoolchildren with legally required tuition would amount to “mass neglect”.

Ahead of Monday’s release of their “roadmap” for easing lockdown restrictions, experts have called for prioritizing swimming after schools reopen and an action plan to make up for lost lessons and save hundreds of pools at risk of permanent closure.

Up to a million children missed swimming in the past year, including in school lessons, which is a statutory part of the national curriculum to ensure every 11-year-old can swim at least a 25-metre lap.

Drowning is the third leading cause of death in children and Swim England is currently in talks with the Government about a mass catch-up scheme to reach the children in Years 6 and 7 who have so far missed out on these lessons.

Even before the pandemic, only one in three children could swim 25m unaided by the time they left primary school, with a sharp divide between the wealthiest (84%) and least wealthy (41%) families.

There are also acute concerns about the future of 200 community swimming pools, which were deemed financially unsustainable to reopen even as lockdown restrictions were eased last year.

Swim England has also received alarming reports of the physical and mental effects of so many absentees from swimming, particularly how many people with underlying health conditions are being forced onto powerful painkillers without regular access to water.

They now want the community pools to reopen at the same time as schools next month under certain circumstances, e.g. B. for school swimming lessons or much-needed health and wellness programs before outdoor and indoor swimming becomes more comprehensive again at the earliest possible date.

“It is a tragedy that up to a million children have missed swimming lessons in the last year due to lockdowns,” said Greg Whyte, Professor of Applied Sport and Exercise Science at Liverpool John Moores University and also Chair of ukactive’s Scientific Advisory Board. “We can hardly afford to allow the continued closure and permanent loss of access to swimming pools. In addition to the recognized physical, mental, emotional and social health benefits of physical activity, swimming saves lives.

“If we are to stop the cycle of non-swimmers and the inevitable loss of life through drowning, we must act now. Failure to provide access to swimming pools and swimming lessons should be viewed as mass child neglect.”

Sports like golf and archery have also written to Boris Johnson, urging their sports to return soon. Swimming is one of the most popular sports in the country, especially among women, with around 4 million regular participants. Those who swim are also likely to be happier and healthier, with the benefits being particularly pronounced in girls.

“It’s also a massive health and wellbeing tool for people who can’t exercise on land,” said Jane Nickerson, chief executive of Swim England. “We are asking: is there any way to get school swimming and health and well-being programs underway?” Swim England believe they demonstrated pools could be safely reopened between July and December last year and will again be following social distancing protocols , limited number and implement ventilation.

“I’d like to see a roadmap that says that’s the order of things and we’d like swimming pools and indoor leisure centers to be among the first to reopen and not behind pubs,” Nickerson said. Although Nickerson described a £100million sports recovery fund as a “useful starting point” for recreational sport, more targeted investment is needed just to salvage existing facilities. Frustratingly, swimming alone saves the National Health Service more than £350million every year.

Sue Wilkinson, the executive director of the Association for Physical Education, said it was “unacceptable” that so many children leave primary school and can’t swim. “School is the only place where all children should have free swimming lessons,” she said. “If we really want to push for equality across England, we need to ensure all children have access to free swimming lessons.”

Huw Edwards, chief executive of ukactive, has called on the government to prioritize the reopening of swimming pools, gyms and leisure facilities “so that they can support the physical and mental health of our communities that have been missing them for so long”. Government urged to reopen swimming pools with one million children missing lessons

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