Quarter of children are unable to swim 25 metres by age 11

CEO reveals energy cost crisis facing Swimming Pools

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The mother of two is calling on ministers to bring in “practical solutions” like intensive summer holiday courses for primary school pupils.

Sharron, 60, spoke out after a Sport England survey found only 72 percent of youngsters in their first year of secondary school could complete a length (25 metres) of a standard recreational pool – six per cent down on pre-Covid numbers.

Four in 10 primary schools offer no swimming lessons, despite it being a National Curriculum requirement. Meanwhile, public and private pools are struggling to stay open because of rising energy costs.

Sharron, who started her swimming career at the age of 11 and won a silver medal at the 1980 Moscow games, said: “I believe wholeheartedly that all children should be given the opportunity to swim.

“It’s a life skill, it’s something you can do from the cradle to the grave. You can do it if you are pregnant, if you are disabled, and in the later years of life.”

The Daily Express launched a Save Our Public Pools crusade after 60 had shut down in the past three years.

And Swim England warned recently that 300 face closure because of soaring costs.

Sharron said: “We had a problem with this before Covid – and then Covid came along and closed all the pools. Lots of swimming teachers left the occupation, and now we’ve got the heating expense problem.”

Sport England found 38 percent of primaries did not give swimming lessons during the last school year, up from 34 percent before the pandemic.

The proportion providing fewer than 10 lessons a year rose from 18 to 23 percent.

Evidence shows children from cash-strapped households are much more likely to end up non-swimmers than their wealthier classmates.

Sharron said: “It’s always kids in deprived areas who miss out the most, because parents who can afford to send them to private lessons will get them swimming. That’s why schools are so important.”

Emma Griffin, of Swim England, said: “There are parts of Manchester where teachers say they have kids who have never stepped foot in a pool before having school lessons.”

The Department for Education said: “We have made swimming and water safety compulsory parts of the National Curriculum at primary school.

“The National Water Safety Forum has launched new safety resources, which teach children how to be safe in and around water.”

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