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Is there a baby swimming crisis in the UK?

newborn baby swimming lesson

Any parent will tell you that their children’s safety is priority number one – and I don’t doubt that for one second. So how is it even possible that the statistics surrounding child swimming have become so appalling?!

For those who aren’t aware, I’ll paint the grim picture. A recent report released by the Amateur Swimming Association last year revealed that less than half (49%) of all children in the UK able to swim the length of a pool by the time they leave primary school. Less than half??? Terrifying. I’m assuming those kids will never learn to swim either.

With that in mind, it’s devastating but really no great surprise that almost 40 children drown in the UK every year and for each death there are an estimated 300 near misses. The Royal Life Saving Society claims drowning is now the third most common cause of accidental death amongst children in the UK.

If we consider that swimming is an essential life skill, the UK has a serious crisis on its hands. And as a parent myself, this is a major cause for concern.

So I ask the question again, exactly how have we allowed this situation become so bad? Are parents now so time-poor we’re no longer taking them ourselves, is it a cultural issue, are we failing to make the obvious link between not being able to swim and drowning, or are we just assuming that schools will teach our children – perhaps like when we were young?

I’m going to be really tough on parents here, because sometimes we need to hear the harsh truth in order for us to actually do something about it and make the change that’s needed, but there’s really no excuse for not teaching your children about swimming and water safety. 

As well as being blessed with highly accessible and affordable public swimming pools in this country, increasing competition amongst private gyms and leisure clubs is drastically reducing the cost of family memberships – the most important thing is that children are getting in the water and being given the opportunity to develop their skills.
The UK also has a vast array of private swimming lessons to suit all budgets and requirements; including those that specialise in baby and pre-school, weekend and after school clubs, cost-effective council-run lessons, one-to-one tuition etc.

With school budgets being cut left, right and center, and swimming sadly being pushed further down the pecking order, it’s becoming clear that parents must once again pick up responsibility for this part of their child’s education.

This post isn’t designed to criticize parents, far from it - as a busy working mum myself I fully appreciate the dedication required to fulfill all our parenting obligations, not just teaching our children how to swim - but I do hope these stats hit you as hard as they did me and make parents question whether they’re doing enough to teach their own children.

If I encourage even one parent to get their child in the water and therefore reduce the chance of drowning, then I’ve done my job.

Happy swimming everyone!

For more advice on taking your baby/child swimming visit: www.swimming.org

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