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Leading article: The bigger risk is not failing, but drowning


It is almost impossible to overstate the value of being able to swim. Like reading or writing, swimming is one of life's basic skills. It is a source of great enjoyment. It is also – as David Sparkes, at the Amateur Swimming Association, rightly observes – the only part of the national curriculum that can save your life.

It is wholly unacceptable, then, that so many schools are shirking their aquatic responsibilities. A shocking one in three 11-year-olds cannot swim the 25 metres stipulated in schools' guidelines. Even worse, four children out of every 10 are not having any swimming lessons at all.

The ASA suggests Ofsted take up the issue. It is certainly a start, and will focus the minds of schools struggling to find the time. But there are trickier questions about the availability of facilities that must also be addressed. Whatever the difficulties, however, on this there can be no compromise. All children should be taught to swim.