The first All Party Parliamentary Group on Swimming, launched yesterday with input from Swim England and representatives from across political parties and the House of Commons and House of Lords. The APPG has been set up to focus on access and participation in swimming. In particular, to reverse the frightening statistic that 31% of children leave primary school unable to swim competently. Competency is measured as being able to swim 25m in a pool without touching the bottom.
Catherine West, Member of Parliament for Hornsey and Wood Green is the MP behind the move and A Lotus Rises caught up with her to find out more.
What is an APPG?
They are cross party groups, where representatives from all the different political parties can come together to pursue a particular topic or interest.
What key issues is the APPG going to address?
Participation and most especially that of children and access to swimming lessons through schools. We will also be looking at broader issues around the numbers of swim schools, swim safety, outdoor swimming and lidos as they are increasing in popularity. We’re very keen to reach out to underrepresented groups.
We are aware that many people are anxious about swimming outdoors and recognise that the swim journey to water confidence begins in the pool, so we are interested in understanding the different areas. There has been a lot of interest from across the two houses and our first research trip will be a visit to Hampstead Ponds.
Today we also discussed the Thames Bath project and the right to swim in different swimming environments; but the main thing is about affordable access to swimming and at its heart is swimming in schools.
The Commonwealth games is coming up and we want to use that momentum to encourage schools to better support swimming. At present, some areas don’t have swimming pools, or not enough to cater for the whole community. We’ll be looking at local level impact and encouraging MPs to promote swimming for their area.
Swim England is participating in this group and we will be working closely with their Scottish and Welsh counterparts.
What impact will the APPG have?
I recognise the importance of grass roots engagement and the APPG will produce a practical report that addresses core issues. Overall, our aim is to ensure that all children are able to swim 25m and are confident in the water. In general primary school swimming is fun and a fantastic opportunity for development for life both in and out of the water.
People have concerns about swimming outdoors, and helping to foster water confidence in schools is critical, but there are concerns around cost. We recognise the need for more funds to be directed towards swimming in schools.
In addition there is a need to promote greater rigour in the delivery of swimming and meeting that 25m benchmark. One practical change could be ensuring that an assessment of swimming lessons is a compulsory part of Ofsted assessments in schools. Solidifying swimming as a benchmark for school performance will strengthen swimming’s position in school life and best practice in schools.
How can the swimming community get involved?
The main focus of the APPG will be children swimming and school swimming and we’re keen to get input from the grass roots. You can get in touch via email at: email@example.com and my team will work out the best way to collate input.
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