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3 main reasons for teaching your child to swim

dad and baby swimming

We are all aware of the softer reasons why we should encourage parents to teach their babies and young children to swim.  It boosts their confidence, allows parent and child to bond and develops a skill that will stay with them for life.

To drum this home and provide you all with some evidence, we've pulled together some statistics on the importance of baby swimming and how it has developed in the UK.  The numbers we quote here have been sourced from reputable sources!


1)    Water safety

We often talk about the importance of water safety for children, although we are not always convinced people really understand this.  In 2014, there were 338 accidental deaths by drowning in the UK (Source: National Water Safety Forum).  Whilst this is a staggering number, the good news is that this is actually a reduction from 381 deaths in 2013.

These accidental drownings can be split by age and location of the incident.

Baby Swimming in numbers

Thankfully only 12% of these deaths were of children.  However, this still represents the third most common cause of death amongst children in the UK.  This statistic alone should be enough to convince you of the importance of getting your child confident in the water at the earliest opportunity and particularly to learn how to expel water from their mouths.

As you would probably expect, the vast majority of accidents (86%) occur when the child is not expecting to be in the water, such as a rivers, lakes and ponds.  In these instances, the child is likely to be fully clothed and therefore it is important to teach your child to swim in clothes.  

Many swim schools support the Royal Life Saving Society’s Drown Prevention Week and the STAnley’s National Water Safety Tour run by STA .  Once a term, they will ask your child to come to the pool for their lesson wearing clothes / pyjamas just to give your child the sensation of floating in clothes.  They will often encourage your child to swim without goggles so that they are familiar with the sensation of water in their eyes.

2)    Health and wellbeing

The UK has the highest rate of childhood obesity in Europe.  In 2013, 37.3% of 11-15 year olds in the UK were overweight or obese compared to just 27.5% in 1996.  (Source:  Kings College London).

The two main drivers of obesity are eating habits and exercise.  Getting your child into a regular exercise routine, such as swimming, can have a dramatic impact on your child’s health and wellbeing.  

kid swimming in lane

Research from Sports England suggests that number of people swimming weekly has reduced from 3.3m in 2007 to 2.5m in 2014, a 25% reduction.  Those swimming at least once a month have also fallen from 5.6m in 2007 to 4.2m in 2014, again a 25% reduction.  Despite this, swimming is still the most popular participation sport in the UK but numbers are falling.  

3)    Fun

For me the most important and compelling reason to teach your child to swim.  It is great fun and a brilliant life skill.  In a 2013 Survey by Speedo, they found that 81% of children aged between 5-12 years old wished that they could go swimming more often.

This is fantastic news that shouldn’t be a surprise.  Kids want to learn to swim and they want to play in the water, and we have some amazing swimming floats and aids such as the SwimFin and other toys to help them have a good time.  Let’s not disappoint them!  Get them along to swimming lessons, whether that is private lessons or at your local pool and teach them to swim.  

underwater divesticks

You should also try to take them yourself outside of lessons just for some fun time. This is a great opportunity to bond with your child and to rediscover the joy of water yourself.  We have recently rediscovered this with our own children.  We often work long hours during the week and don’t get that much quality time with our kids so as a family we go to our local pool every Saturday or Sunday for the Wet n’Wild session (basically no swim lanes) and have an hour of throwing them around and ducking under for dive sticks etc.  We all come away smiling but exhausted.  To boot, they have also continued to develop their confidence in and under the water.


So all the numbers that we have shown you above have convinced you that you need to teach your child to swim.  How should you go about it?

Well here are some statistics about teaching children to swim.

1)    Primary school aged children

It is now part of the national curriculum for a child to be able to swim at least 25 meters unaided by the time they leave primary school.  Great news we hear you shout.  

However, a 2014 survey by the Amateur Swimming Association showed that 45% of primary school aged children were unable to swim this length unaided.  Even worse, 1,300 primary schools (6.6%) did not even offer swimming lessons despite it being part of the curriculum.

Whilst we should all continue to push our schools and politicians to right this wrong, it is clear that we should not rely upon schools to teach our children to swim but we, as parents and guardians, need to take the lead.  As mentioned earlier, it may even help you regain the joy of swimming too!

There are a large number of swim schools out there for you to use.  As the private swim school market is largely unregulated there are no definitive number of swim schools, but conservative estimates indicate that the number is in the thousands.  The STA alone award over one million badges and certificates every year suggesting that there is plenty of opportunity.

2)    Baby and Infant Swimming

The Swimming Teachers Association (“STA”) carried out a survey of baby swimming lessons, which was published earlier this year.  This provided a number of very interesting statistics, which are below and combined with some other 3rd party statistics.

  • Their survey identified around 50,000 babies and infants aged 0-2 are taught to swim every week across the 206 swim schools they surveyed.  If we reckon that their survey captured a healthy 50% of all baby swimming school numbers, this represents c. 100,000 babies being taught each and every week across the UK.  According to the Office for National Statistics, there are c. 1.5million children in this age group in the UK, suggesting just under 7% of babies and infants are being taught to swim on a regular basis;

  • 82% of these swim schools have seen a significant increase in the level of demand over the last 5 years, with just over 67% of schools having a waiting list;

  • 65% of these swim schools will offer lessons for children from birth to 3 months old so it is never too soon to start to learn;

  • 63% of private swim schools charge less than £10 per session.  This compares to 96% of public leisure facilities charging less than £10 per person

If you would like to find a registered swim school in your area then you should search on either the STA or ASA website where you can search by area to find a swim school near you as well as finding hints and tips on how to teach your child to swim. Alternatively, contact us and we'll put you in touch with one of our local swim school partners.

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