Swimming and water safety lessons are currently only a compulsory part of the curriculum in primary school (either in key stages 1 or 2). However, free schools and academies are not required to follow the national curriculum.

In 2021, there were 277 accidental water-related fatalities in the UK, of which approximately 40 were of people under the age of 19. Lord Storey has argued that including more swimming and water safety content in the curriculum could save lives.

In 2015, the National Water Safety Forum, an association of organisations with responsibilities for water safety, produced a ‘UK drowning prevention strategy 2016–2026’. It stated that nearly half of children left primary school without having achieved the national curriculum requirement to be able to swim 25 metres unaided. The strategy included a target of ensuring that all children had the opportunity to receive water safety education in primary or, if necessary, secondary school.

In 2018, the government announced that it would provide additional funding to primary schools, through the PE and sport premium, to provide extra swimming lessons to those pupils who had not achieved the minimum curriculum standards.

The government has not indicated its support for Lord Storey’s private member’s bill. However, it has said it supports improving the number of children leaving primary school having achieved the national curriculum swimming and water safety outcomes.


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