Concern over school swimming cutbacks

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The Independent Online

More than half of primary schools have cut swimming lessons in the past three years, according to a new report by school inspectors.

More than half of primary schools have cut swimming lessons in the past three years, according to a new report by school inspectors.

They warned of wide variations in the standard of lessons and said water safety was not adequately taught in a "worrying minority" of schools.

Overall, nearly one in five children start at secondary school unable to swim the 25 metres laid down in the national curriculum.

Inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education praised the general standard of teaching, saying pupils' grasp of safety and confidence in the water was at least satisfactory in almost all lessons.

But they said that more than half of schools had cut the time allocated to swimming lessons. Headteachers blamed the effect of the national literacy and numeracy hours,costs, and problems finding suitable pools.

Inspectors also pointed to wide variations in standards from school to school. The percentage of 11-year-olds able to swim 25 metres varied from 91 per cent in rural schoolsto 67 per cent in the most deprived schools.

The report said: "This variability in standards among different groups of schools is a cause for concern.

"Swimming is a vital personal and social skill... Pupils who cannot swim are denied access to other activities in the curriculum, for example canoeing and sailing."

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