Swimming and Water Safety

Swimming and Aquatic Activities

One in three primary school leavers can't swim, report warns, amid rise in drownings

One in three primary school leavers cannot swim one length of a pool, a report has found, amid concern that a lack of lessons is leading to rise in young people drowning.

At present swimming lessons are not offered at one in 20 primary schools across the UK, leaving thousands of parents to fork out for private classes. 

Of the remaining primaries swimming provision is so poor that only a third of schools (36 per cent) are providing effective lessons that reach all three national curriculum standards.

The study also reveals that despite swimming and water safety being part of the national curriculum for over 20 years, two-thirds (63 per cent) of parents with year six children fear that their child could not save themselves in water. 

Official data shows forty people aged 19 and under drowned in the UK last year, representing an increase of 25 per cent from 2015

Cambridgeshire County Council regards swimming as a priority because Learning about water safety and knowing how to keep yourself safe in and around water is a life-skill and as such, should be recognised and measured in the same ways as other key subjects such as maths. Including a condition that ensures swimming and water safety attainment is published will help to show how we can support schools to deliver these vital lessons.

Swimming in the National Curriculum

All primary schools must provide swimming instruction either in key stage 1 or key stage 2.

In particular, pupils should be taught to:

  • swim competently, confidently and proficiently over a distance of at least 25 metres
  • use a range of strokes effectively [for example, front crawl, backstroke and breaststroke]
  • perform safe self-rescue in different water-based situations

There is a requirement that schools publish swimming attainment levels online alongside the information reporting about the PE and Sport Premium investment..

The new condition is part of updated guidance from the Department for Education regarding PE and sport premium funding.

Schools are required to publish how many Year 6 pupils have met the national curriculum requirements relating to swimming and water safety.


CCC swimming pool guidance april 2019

Size: 624.69 KB File format: pdf

The purpose of this document is to set out the policies and provide guidance on Safe Practice in School Swimming and Water Safety, whether at a school pool, hydrotherapy pool, public pool or during school visits. Our ambition is to keep everyone involved in School Swimming safe. Included are the policies and procedures of Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC) based on current national guidance in relation to School Swimming and Water Safety, swimming pool safety, and educational visits, which may include water-based activities.

The appendices contain exemplar materials and greater detail on guidance.

This policy is for all CCC maintained schools. It is recommended that Academies, Foundation and Voluntary Aided schools also follow the guidance within the policy. Where schools use Leisure Provider pools, partnership working is vital, not only to keep pupils and staff safe, but also to ensure that young people experience a meaningful range of aquatic opportunities, in a manner that is safe and fully inclusive.

 These operating policy guidance notes for school pools and for other school swimming activities are divided into sections:

Part A. Conducting Safe Aquatic Activities

Part B. Roles and Responsibilities

Part C. Guidance for the Operation of Swimming Pools on school sites

APPENDIX 7 - pool hire

Hire of pool to outside organisations: Specific conditions relating to the hire of the swimming pool

Size: 80.17 KB File format: pdf

School Swimming Pool Management Guidance

All schools with their own swimming facility must have an accredited ‘Pool Carer’ who has responsibility for the operation of the swimming pool. This qualification can only be attained through attendance at a HSE approved ‘Small Pool Operators’ course. This is the industry norm requirement for any small swimming pool plant operator and is a two day course.

For details of upcoming courses please refer to PE Advisory Service course portfolio on PE Home page


National advice about temperature management for outdoor pools

Size: 290.60 KB File format: pdf

ASA School Swimming Guidelines 2015

NGB guidance for primary school swimming provision

Size: 468.54 KB File format: pdf

Qualifications and Training to teach swimming (002)

Canbridgeshire County Council Advice about good practice regarding competence to teach swimming in schools

Size: 101.73 KB File format: pdf