Last updated on October 23rd, 2022 at 10:31 AM
Three of British Swimming’s biggest names have pledged their support for a campaign which aims to ensure that all children leaving primary school in the UK in 2025 should be able to self-rescue or swim 25 metres.
Triple Olympic gold medal winner Adam Peaty, legendary Paralympian Ellie Simmonds and recently retired international swimmer and campaigner Michael Gunning joined forces with Speedo, the Black Swimming Association, Swim England and Active Black Country, to highlight the growing issue of more and more children being unable to swim.
This is informed by Swim England research* showing that one in four children who leave primary school were unable to swim 25 metres.
Although swimming is part of the National Curriculum and all primary schools receive funding for swimming lessons, its use is not ring-fenced and therefore at a risk of not being used on this vital life skill.
To avoid this possibility, which puts so many children in danger, Speedo Swim United is calling on the public to pledge their support along with Adam Peaty, Ellie Simmonds and Michael Gunning to sign the Change.org petition (www.change.org/Speedoswimunited) which asks the UK Government to:
- Ring-fence funding provided to schools for swimming lessons and include this as part of Ofsted inspections to ensure all children leave primary school able to swim.
- Provide urgent support for swimming pool operators to remain open amid rising energy costs and to enable them to increase pool time for swimming lessons and train new teachers.
- Invest in community engagement to reach community groups who may face cultural and systemic barriers to swimming
The children unable to swim are also most likely to come from low income, Black and Asian backgrounds. The work of the Black Swimming Association is helping to increase understanding of the social, cultural, practical and economic barriers that these children and their families face, which can inform new programmes that are more effective in helping them learn to swim.
Peaty, Simmonds and Gunning pledge their support for Speedo’s Swim United programme
The coming together of the athletes and organisations took place in Smethwick, which operates in a region of the UK where all children live half a kilometre from a body of water, yet half of them would drown if they fell in.
Adam and Ellie, who both began their swimming journeys in the Midlands, took to the water with fellow swimmer and Birmingham 2022 Pride House ambassador Michael Gunning, as well as local pupils from The Cape Primary School, to encourage more pupils to engage with swimming and develop this life saving skill.
Children should have access to swimming lessons before leaving primary school
Breaststroke phenomenon Peaty said: “Swimming is a fundamental life skill and to hear that one in four children leave primary school without being able to swim is a truly shocking statistic which highlights the urgency needed to tackle this rapidly-growing issue which needs long-term, systemic change.
“We have just seen the greatest ever performance from a Team GB swimming squad at the Olympics, but it means nothing if we are not using that momentum to help inspire the next generation of swimmers.
“However, if kids aren’t being given the access to swimming lessons at school then they could potentially be left behind.
This isn’t just about sport or meeting curriculum requirements, it’s about physical and mental health and, most importantly, saving lives and safeguarding our children.
We need the Government to support campaigns and initiatives such as Speedo Swim United if we are to give ourselves the best chance of success in the future.”
A genuinely life-saving skill
Five-time Paralympic Gold medallist, Ellie Simmonds, added: “I was lucky enough to start swimming at the age of five, and I’m passionate about ensuring that young people are able to develop their skills.
Swimming is not only enjoyable and rewarding but a genuinely life-saving skill, too. I’m excited to be working with Speedo to address the barriers faced by communities which prevent them from taking part in swimming lessons.
“One of the biggest barriers is undoubtedly the associated costs for many families and the easiest way to ensure they have access to the water is through school swimming lessons, which are vitally important for so many youngsters. It is crucial we do all we can to protect these lessons.
But it’s also important to understand that there are more considerations that vary by community, that influence their ability to learn.”
Swimming needs to be more inclusive for all!
Competitive swimmer and ambassador for Birmingham 2022 Pride House, Michael Gunning said;
“Growing up as a mixed-race boy, I didn’t have a swimming hero who I felt I could truly relate to, and it can feel like a lonely place at the top sometimes.
I had to overcome many barriers to become a professional athlete in the sport that I love, and my swimming journey hasn’t been an easy one.
“After many years of fighting and campaigning to make swimming more equitable for all, it’s amazing to see a brand like Speedo join forces with other influential swim organisations to highlight these issues, and act as a catalyst for change.
The majority of children who can’t swim are from ethnic minority communities and this statistic really needs to change.
Swim United is just the beginning and I am wholeheartedly behind driving this change and making a positive impact to the world of sport.
“Success in swimming isn’t just defined by winning medals, it’s about the character swimming creates and the multiple challenges you overcome along the way. Swimming is a sport for all, and we all have a chance to be part of that legacy moving forward.”
Global Brand Director at Speedo, Kev McFadyen said: “Today marks an important milestone in Speedo’s Swim United programme as we announce a shared ambition with our partners – the Black Swimming Association, Swim England and Active Black Country.
We are calling on the public, swimmers, coaches, teachers as well as other brands and organisations to pledge their support via our Change.org petition. And together we are calling on the UK Government to intervene – a move that will surely save lives.
“In Adam Peaty, Ellie Simmonds and Michael Gunning we have the backing of some the UK’s most iconic swimmers, and we also stand shoulder-to-shoulder with these fantastic swim organisations in a shared mission to ensure that 1 in 4 does not become 6 in 10.”
To pledge your support for this ambition, sign your name to the petition to Government at www.speedo.com/swimunited and to read more about the work of the organisations mentioned:
– Black Swimming Association
To join the conversation, follow @Speedo #SwimUnited on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Facebook.