One of the most worrying aspects of the last year and a half has been the huge impact the pandemic has had on children. Many were out of education for over a year, they have missed social contact, team sports, singing, dancing and all of them have missed out on vital swimming lessons. Of all the physical education a child receives, the only one that will save their life, is swimming.
Swim England estimates that over 2 million school children missed out on 5 million lessons in the past year. Few schools have ever prioritised swimming lessons and they aren’t about to start now, given they have the academic curriculum to catch up on first. This is a huge pity, because not only is swimming a key life skill, but professionals agree it’s of great benefit to children’s mental health and development.
The vast majority of lost lessons followed the closures of public pools, many of which still haven’t opened, despite extra government funding being made available to councils for the provision of leisure services. Pools are expensive to run and expensive to staff, many have yet to open at all and those that have are running at a smaller capacity, some choosing not to restart lessons at all. This has resulted in 240,000 children missing out on learning how to swim 25m and 50,000 fewer children being able to rescue themselves.
Over the past few month’s efforts have been made to ramp up pool openings, with baby swim schools back up and running and taking bookings, with many oversubscribed. Demand is there and parents are keen to get back in the water, but industry professionals worry that many Victorian pools closed for refurbishment, simply won’t reopen at all, with the latest estimates suggesting England alone will lose 2000 swimming pools by the end of the decade.