Improving the swimming and life-saving skills of children provided through schools, House of Lords, 6 March 2019

Councils are just about managing to keep leisure facilities running but in many cases, these facilities are coming to the end of their lifespan. In 2017, we highlighted figures that showed that 60 per cent of swimming pools are now more than 20 years old.


Key messages

  • Water safety is a significant concern for councils and the LGA has called on government to do more to raise awareness of water safety issues.
  • In addition to improving swimming rates, there needs to be a greater emphasis in the school curriculum on water safety and drowning prevention (for both sea and in-land water).
  • We have called for swimming and classroom lessons to include messages around cold water shock as well as highlighting the dangers of tombstoning (this is where people jump or dive from height into water). Swimming and classroom lessons should be part of a wider campaign to raise public awareness about water safety.
  • The Government should take advantage of councils' position in the community in order to give them a clear and strategic role in school improvement and holding schools to account for education standards. Councils know their local schools best and are uniquely placed to offer up to date local knowledge. Local government must be empowered to help all schools improve where necessary, including academies and free schools.
  • However, even with changes to the curriculum, the pressure on local swimming pools poses a risk to improving water safety. Data from Sport England’s ‘Swim Group’ shows that 72 per cent of primary schools use publicly owned swimming facilities for their swimming activity but access can be compromised as a result of issues regarding cost, availability and transport.
  • It is very expensive for councils to provide and maintain swimming pools, due to the need to heat them, and many old swimming pools were not designed effectively. New and improved designs are available and more cost effective, but many councils lack access to the finance to replace existing facilities with provision that meets the needs of their communities.
  • Councils are just about managing to keep leisure facilities running but in many cases, these facilities are coming to the end of their lifespan. In 2017, we highlighted figures that showed that 60 per cent of swimming pools are now more than 20 years old.
  • Our new analysis shows that 838 local authority pools and 591 swimming pools situated on education sites have had no refurbishment since the year 2000.
  • We are calling for Sport England’s facilities fund to be increased tenfold to ensure that councils can provide the right offer for their communities.

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Improving the swimming and life-saving skills of children provided through schools, House of Lords, 6 March 2019