Plan to tackle ‘all-time low’ level of swimming ability among children unveiled by Cardiff Council

A plan to tackle “all-time low” levels of swimming ability among children in Cardiff has been unveiled.

A council scrutiny committee meeting heard in April, 2024 that the city was the worst performing area in Wales for children learning to swim.

Data collected by Cardiff Metropolitan University and Swim Wales, which was presented to the scrutiny committee, showed just 16% of children in Cardiff could swim and only 57% of primary schools in the city sent pupils to swimming lessons in the 2022/23 academic year.

The council now plans to pilot a new scheme from September, 2024, which will see schools coupled with local swimming pools, transport sharing opportunities made available with other schools and the development of a streamlined booking system.

A Cardiff Council spokesperson said: “Drowning is the second most common cause of non-intentional injury fatalities in children under 18 years of age in Wales, after transport related fatalities, and learning to swim can be the difference between life and death.

“We know that the take up of school swimming lessons in Cardiff is lower in comparison to other areas in Wales and we are committed to making significant changes so that schools have as much support as possible to enable swim provision to be delivered to learners across the city.

“By utilising local swimming pools means less travel time during the school day and promotes strong community ties, enhancing the learning experience.

“Safety is an important aspect of the curriculum in Wales and through partnership working, we want to ensure all children in Cardiff are able to have fun and be safe in and around water.”

The scheme will be delivered by the council’s Cardiff Commitment curriculum team in partnership with Swim Wales, Cardiff Met Sport, Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), Legacy Leisure, Urdd Gobaith Cymru and Public Health Wales.

Swimming lessons will be offered in both Welsh and English medium, will include a specific water safety lesson and will be available as a two-week intensive course.

The pilot will include schools in the same geographical areas as Eastern Leisure Centre in Llanrumney, Cardiff Met in Cyncoed and Cardiff International Pool located in Cardiff Bay.

Swim Wales national learn to swim manager, Hanna Guise, said: “School swimming and water safety education is barely holding its head above water; swimming ability in Welsh children and specifically Cardiff, is at an all-time low.

“Swim Wales, in collaboration with our Water Safety Wales partners, highlight the importance of learning to swim and developing water competence skills for all our communities.

“By working together, we can help prevent drownings, save lives and make a positive contribution to the wellbeing of children in Cardiff.

“Experiences in school shape our future relationship with swimming, water, and all aquatic activities and could have a lasting impact and influence on a child’s behaviour and decision making in and around water.

“The proposed actions and collaboration between all of the stakeholder organisations is vital to ensuring that all children in Cardiff are able to have fun and be safe in and around water.”

A comprehensive charter has also been designed to ensure consistent high-quality provision across all schools.

A full rollout of the scheme to all schools is planned for 2025/26.

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