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Swim Case Study

As you may have been aware recently Emily Mason carried out a 6 week work experience exercises with us. Her main task was to research whether it was more or less benificial to start teaching children to swim from an early age, her findings are below:

For those who wish not to read all the artical the conclusion is YES start your child swimming as early as poossible.

A Report to Examine Whether Swimming should be Introduced
and Taught
as a Mandatory Subject in KS1?

This report has been carried out to establish whether it is advantageous to teach children to swim at an earlier age instead of waiting for the mandatory KS2 school swimming lessons. The report has established two significant outcomes relating to this topic which will be discussed in the report’s “findings”. The first aspect is the safety issue and the significance of the being able to swim at an early age. The second aspect is the importance of maintaining a healthy level of fitness through swimming. Throughout the report evidence will be given to support the proposition.

This rationale will examine why it might be of importance to teach children to swim at an earlier age than is currently being implemented in schools, for safety reasons and establish if swimming can impact a child’s health and fitness.

1 in 3 children cannot swim by the end of year 6, which translates to 200,000 children across the UK. It has been reported by Teachers TV that drowning is the 3rd most common cause of accidental death among the under 16’s. (Teachers TV, 2007). Therefore it is not only paramount that children develop their knowledge of water safety but also their ability to swim. This is supported by Hardy who believes “if basic water practices are included in a swimming programme...swimmers are more likely to save themselves in an emergency” (Hardy, 1989, p.5). This is supported by Shank who considers “learning to swim is not a game, it is a necessity of life” (Shank, 1983, p.8).

Swimming can have a positive effect on a child’s fitness and health through regular lessons. This is a relevant educational issue which links to the health and fitness of young people. Every Child Matters (ECM) has devised a Healthy School initiative where schools must achieve National Healthy School Status. This nationwide proposal encourages schools to “promote the link between good health, behaviour and achievement” (ECM, 2009). The four cores that define being a Healthy School include ‘physical activity’ which ensures pupils partake in at least 2 hours of PE a week. Swimming can be included in this time as it is considered as “one of the best forms of exercise” for weight loss, fitness levels, and aerobic abilities (TriFecta Multisport, 2009). 


This report argues that swimming should be taught as early as possible, rather than waiting until school begins swimming lessons in KS2. However opinion is divided when asked when is the perfect age for children to begin swimming? According to Geyer, babies who have experience of swimming “benefit from superior physical co-ordination, social confidence and mental development” (Geyer, 2008). This is in accordance with the findings from questionnaires handed to parents at DPD coaching services (see appendix 6, questionnaire D) who found that swimming encouraged confidence and allowed their child to make friends with others in the group.
Geyer has found that many believe teaching children to swim before the age of 4 is fruitless as children do not have the mental or physical demand required to swim, (Geyer, 2008). Although children may not have the physical strength to assume all of the strokes in swimming, their naivety and lack of fear allows them to become comfortable enough in the water to experiment and gather the basic elements of each stroke to then apply strength and agility later in years (see appendix 1). This observation supports the idea that although the child is too young to swim independently with a good stroke technique, the foundations are being put in place, for when the child is ready. Ramser disagrees by saying that when children are older, they are able to control their emotions better, i.e. their fear. She goes onto say “they are able to rationalise what you are saying...and are more independent” (Ramser, 2008). However the author of this enquiry report disagrees. Even if a child or adult is able to rationalize their thinking, a fear is not always necessarily rationale. For example, if a child has built up fear of the water, being able to talk to them will not necessarily help.  This has been proven in my placement (see appendix 7) child X would not jump in the water with her friends when asked to. We tried to talk to her and coax her to jump in, but she was simply too scared.

The Amateur swimming association (ASA) have reported that every child regardless of age should learn to swim “Children should be introduced to water as soon as possible so they become happy and confident before reaching school age” (ASA, 1992, p.2). This is in accordance with interview 3 (see appendix 5). This states that it is a better use of time to teach children to swim who have already been swimming, and simply build on their previous knowledge, rather than starting from scratch (see appendix). This view is supported by SwimAmerica that argue “as soon as your child is capable of independent motion, they are capable of getting into water and drowning” (SwimAmerica, 2008). Therefore they believe that children should learn to become accustomed to the water from an early so they can float in the water, and call for help. Once this major safety element and confidence has been accomplished, ‘real swimming’ can begin.
It is now thought that 700,000 children have been diagnosed as obese, Dobson has reported that “Over-eating and a lack of exercise mean Britain's young people are storing up serious health problems” (Dobson, 2006). As swimming has been considered one of the best forms of exercise (see previous page) it is important that children are able to view swimming as a fun and sociable activity to keep fit and healthy, in a time when it is more important than ever to encourage children to become more active. In Sussex alone one is twelve children are considered dangerously overweight in reception classes. That is potentially two children in every class according to The Leader, 2009. Swimming can be part of the PE curriculum to help reduce obesity in KS1. It can encourage fitness levels, whilst having fun in the water.

Jim Knight, Schools Minister, has reported “Every child should learn how to swim, it is an essential skill and a fun way to exercise” (Davies, C, 2008). It is argued that swimming can offer many benefits and can have a positive effect on behaviour. Swimming boosts confidence, which leads to motivation and with motivation, comes achievement. Not all children are high academic achievers, and if children are able to succeed in swimming, it can bring a sense of achievement to individuals. This is supported by a statement made by interviewee Mr B, who believes the class swimming lesson has a positive effect on behaviour, before, during and after a lesson.

Project Aims
The report has investigated:

  • Whether early teaching results in higher achievement and development in their ability to swim?
  • Whether swimming can contribute to staying healthy and active.

This enquiry used 4 different approaches to determine the findings.

  • 2 case studies
  • Questionnaire handed to parents
  • Interviews with staff
  • Observations of children in school and private lessons.

Firstly, 2 case studies were used from a school swimming group (see appendix 7 & 8). The case studies were chosen to highlight the difference between two swimmers who had different experiences of swimming. Observations were carried out on a weekly basis, to look at their level of development in swimming. The information was then used to decide if there are any advantages to teaching swimming before KS2. For a full analysis of why these case studies were chosen, including background information, development rates and how the information was used refer to Appendix 10.  

Secondly, questionnaires were handed to parents of the children swimming to ascertain how long the children had been swimming for, and the reasons behind giving them private lessons. The questions were designed to establish background information of the children’s swimming experience, including why the parents felt it important for their children to receive swimming lessons outside of school. For the full analysis, refer to Appendix 10.

Thirdly, staff were interviewed to gauge what they thought about the prospect of teaching swimming earlier rather than later (see appendix 3, 4 & 5). Questions were created to ascertain how many children could or could not swim, and if swimming had any effect on the children in their school life (see appendix 9). The questions asked allowed the staff to voice their views on the subject of teaching swimming in KS1. It is understood by the author of this report that this type of evidence may be biased as the staff work in the business of swimming and therefore believes in the subject they teach, but it is important to receive all relevant evidence. For a full analysis of these interviews, including how the answers were used as evidence refer to Appendix 10.  
Lastly I observed children from the private lessons and the school lessons. This was to establish the difference private lessons and school lesson had on the children swimming development. Their swimming development was measured in several ways to determine the effect the different lessons has on the children behaviour and swimming ability. For a full analysis, including how the results were gathered and used refer to Appendix 10. 

Parents and professionals who provided information signed a consent form which permitted the use any information given for this research project. Absolute confidentiality was given to ensure that names and address were not used in any findings, documents or reports. Parents also gave permission for their child to be used in a case study or any other part of the enquiry. Any individual who takes part in the enquiry will be permitted a copy of my findings upon request. Any personal information was not used as evidence, therefore privacy was not invaded and individuals were not pressured to provide information. No pressure was applied to encourage an individual to become a subject of the research and individuals have a right to withdraw at anytime. From this they could then fill out questionnaires regarding their child’s swimming. Staff went through a similar process to give consent to interview and handling of data.

Findings and Evaluation
This report found that over time, if children do not have contact with the water, a fear can develop of the unknown. When older children do begin swimming lessons, this fear could have been present for some time which makes the child unwilling to learn how to swim. If parents or professionals intervene early, children are able to experiment and have fun in the water whilst they have no fear. Young children have little or no fear of the water, in most cases, as they have not seen or had a bad experience. This can potentially be very dangerous and constant supervision is required when young children are swimming. Therefore if a child has never been the swimming pool, he now has a good knowledge of what might happen if he goes in the water. Experience has taught him of the dangers, through the media, peers, adults and stories he may have heard. Therefore starting swimming lessons early can eliminate this from happening. As this report has considered, children can begin to develop a fear of the water if they have not learnt to swim before a certain age. This is supported by Shank who considers a baby has no fear of the water, it is something that is learnt. Consequently if children swim at a young age, they are less likely to fear the water when they are older (Shank, 1983, p.9). This can be seen from the case studies carried out (see appendix 7 &8). The case studies highlight the different behaviour of these two children. Child Y is very used to the water and she is in the middle group for swimming. Child X is very nervous of being in and around the water; she is in the lowest group but is keen to keep up with her peers. Physically these two children are equally matched, and therefore should be able to swim at the same level. However, child X has only visited the swimming pool on a limited number of occasions with the school, whereas child Y regularly has private swimming lessons. Once could argue from this that child X’s fear and uncertainty of the water is standing in the way of her development. As each week goes on she becomes less reluctant to put her head in the water, but her feet do not leave the floor until the last few sessions. Progress is slow and in the last lesson she cannot jump off the side into the water. From observing private lessons and school lessons it is easy to distinguish the children who have been swimming outside of school and those who have not. Some children do not experience swimming until their school takes them, and in several cases this is not until they are 8 years old. As can be seen in the case study, child X had not been swimming before school lessons and this had a serious effect on her swimming development (see appendix 7). It can also be seen from the lesson observations (see appendix 1 & 2) the difference in swimming abilities from those who have received lessons outside of school. Children in the school lessons who had not been swimming before were in a lower group, than those in the private lessons, even though they were of the same age. This is supported by the observations carried out on children in private and school swimming lesson. The difference in swimming abilities is clear cut in the private lessons as they can all swim. So their swimming level is easy to match to other children in the group. This is not the case is the school swimming as a lot of the children cannot swim at all. Therefore it is similar to having group 1 of the private lessons (see appendix 2) except the teachers don’t get in the water with them, so they do not have that extra help. If these lower swimming ability children had been taken swimming in KS1 then their technique could now be developed in KS2, similar to the private lessons (see appendix 1).   All the children in the school swimming lessons have the Gross Motor Skills available to use but it is difficult for the lower sets to know how to use them as nobody can demonstrate it to them in the water.

This report has found that younger children are willing and eager to learn as they do not have any fear or preconceptions of the water. Although they may not have the muscle strength required for the strokes, the basic foundations can be built so as their fitness and strength improves, technique can be corrected. They may not have the Gross Motor Skills required for swimming when they are younger but if they become used to the water, such as group 1 in the private lessons then this can be built upon later in the school years.  If KS1 taught swimming then by KS2 the school and private lessons could have the same ability of swimmers. Although the lessons may not be as frequent, if children experience the water from an early age, they will not have the fear that some of the older children have when they begin swimming. The interviewed staff took the same view, by saying that swimming should not only be taught earlier in school for the safety aspects but for the ease for teaching later in the school. Mr A (see appendix 5) believed development could be heightened if children already know how to swim.

Lessons do not have to be taught at the swimming pool however. For KS1, the fist lessons should be in the classroom, where the children learn about water safety rules. This prepares them for what they should know before they begin swimming lessons, as they will know what they will be doing and what is expected of them. If they have seen pictures of the swimming pool, the instructors and maybe look at the equipment they will be using, such as floats and woggles, it can ensure that their first swimming experience is a happy one.

This report has highlighted the importance of swimming as part of a healthy and active life. Swimming builds endurance and strengthens muscles which gradually make exercise easier. It is one of the few exercises that work each muscle in your body, therefore making it a very worthwhile activity to include in the curriculum. This is supported by Levy who believes that swimming can be used to implement other areas of the National Curriculum, he believes swimming raises achievements “in their behaviour and confidence, creating a positive effect across the curriculum” (Levy, 2008). This is in accordance with interviewee number 1 (see appendix 3). His school believe that it is possible to create a whole school approach to swimming that can be used in class lessons, such as numeracy, literacy and ICT. Swimming could be the topic of a poem or limerick in literacy; it could serve as data for numeracy, and then make charts and tables of times in ICT.

The report has found that swimming should be taught at an early age as it can save lives. From the returned questionnaires it can be seen that the main motive for parents paying for private lessons is to ensure that children can swim for their own safety. Many parents said it was very important that their children could swim as we live on the coast, or at least float, from the earliest possible age. Although this view cannot influence the entire country’s national curriculum as it does not concern all children living in this country, it is still a view that parents share and one that will affect people living near the sea. Questionnaire C (see appendix 6) mentions their own experience of swimming, and not wanting to pass this fear down to their children. So she has been paying for lessons for her children from an early age.
It is understood however the practical implications of taking a year group swimming, it can be costly to arrange transport and hire of the swimming pool, and that’s if there is a swimming pool close by. But this report has shown that excuses should not be used when discussing when swimming should be taught to children. One particular school involved in this report walked 15 minutes to the swimming pool. This issue was also raised by interviewee number talked about the difficulties arranging swimming lessons can bring (see appendix 5).

Lastly, swimming can bring success and achievement to individuals, but can also encourage team work. Gala’s and competitions can take place, much like sports days. Mr Z (see appendix 4) commented that schools have lost that friendly competition, and everyone is now encouraged to beat their own personal best time in sports, but sometimes competition is healthy. This is supported by Lopes, who believes competition can have positive effects on our behaviour (Lopes, 1995).

This report was carried out to ascertain if swimming should be taught to KS1 pupils as part of the National Curriculum to firstly develop awareness of safety in and around the water, and secondly to develop children’s health and fitness. Different methods have been used, including case studies, observations, interviews and questionnaires to seek this information and gather evidence from parents as well as professionals working with children.
This report has highlighted the significance of including swimming in the KS1 curriculum. In many cases schools wait to teach swimming at the mandatory stage of KS2. The report proposes that KS2 is not the best time to begin to teach swimming. As teachers, it cannot be assumed that children are being taken swimming outside of school, therefore due to safety alone children should be taught how to be careful in and around water.
An individual’s swimming development is quicker when children have been swimming for longer period of time; therefore school lessons can be more productive if the children already have prior experience. The National KS2 curriculum states that year 6 children must swim a minimum of 25 metres at the end of the year. However, in London alone schools saw an 80% failure rate. Consequently, only 20% of children in London can swim to a satisfactory standard. When presenting these figures to a year 5 teacher in an interview, Mr B said he was not shocked by the results (see appendix 3) as school children receive so little swimming training.
Another benefit emerging from this report, cited by interviewees and questionnaires is the social and emotional development, including the positive changes in confidence and behaviour swimming has on children. This report has briefly looked at some of these benefits (refer to page 3 & 7). This would form an interesting project as part of a further enquiry looking at why swimming should be introduced in KS1 to improve behaviour.
With the relevant information this report has concluded that swimming should be taught to KS1 children. Not only for the health and fitness it provides at a time when children need to become more physically active, but to also make the water safer for children. Starting swimming at an earlier age is more time efficient and provides a better experience for children.

Reference List

  • ASA. (1992), Swimming. (10th edition), London: A & C Black LTD
  • HARDY, C. (1989). Let’s go swimming: a teachers handbook, London: Century Hutchinson LTD.



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