I read with interest the recent news in Sports Management about the new Learn to Swim standards introduced by the European Swimming Federation.
Ensuring children are all taught the same skills regardless of the country they live in is a step in the right direction and the ambition to get children to swim 200 meters in a recognisable stroke by the time they are 11 would be a dream come true.
However, this objective in the new standards raises more questions than answers.
For the last decade, the ambition in the UK has been to get children to swim 25 metres by the time they’re 11. Currently, our success rate in relation to this target is just 45 per cent.
How can we possibly increase this eight times without any acknowledgement of the current challenge? If we were already achieving the 25-metre goal, raising the bar at this stage would make sense, however, my concern is that this new goal will set us up for failure if appropriate changes are not made.
We’re also missing the details. How did the Federation arrive at 200 metres in the first place? How will this be measured? Is there an accurate method for collecting and analysing this data? What is the timescale for this goal? To achieve this worthy objective, there needs to be a realistic and attainable plan in place.
Finally, there needs to be greater transparency on how the 200 metre goal is going to be accomplished. Will there be a mandate to reduce the number of children in a class to ensure more focused teaching?
While swimming is on the National Curriculum, many schools offer lessons infrequently throughout the year. This is not sufficient to learn to swim 25 meters in a recognisable stroke, let alone 200. Perhaps more budget needs to allocated to schools and swimming lessons need to be made a compulsory Ofsted requirement?
Overall, I am firmly in favour of these new standards and I applaud the European Swimming Federation for its ambitious goal. I’d love to see all children learning to swim 200 meters by age 11, swimming confidently and ultimately embracing swimming as a form of fitness. Achieving the goal will be a challenge, but I support it wholeheartedly. As soon as more details are available, I am keenly interested in collaborating with the European Swimming Federation to achieve this important objective.