One of the most worrying aspects of the last year and a half has been the huge impact the pandemic has had on children. Many were out of education for over a year, they have missed social contact, team sports, singing, dancing and all of them have missed out on vital swimming lessons. Of all the physical education a child receives, the only one that will save their life, is swimming.

Swim England estimates that over 2 million school children missed out on 5 million lessons in the past year. Few schools have ever prioritised swimming lessons and they aren’t about to start now, given they have the academic curriculum to catch up on first. This is a huge pity, because not only is swimming a key life skill, but professionals agree it’s of great benefit to children’s mental health and development.

The vast majority of lost lessons followed the closures of public pools, many of which still haven’t opened, despite extra government funding being made available to councils for the provision of leisure services. Pools are expensive to run and expensive to staff, many have yet to open at all and those that have are running at a smaller capacity, some choosing not to restart lessons at all. This has resulted in 240,000 children missing out on learning how to swim 25m and 50,000 fewer children being able to rescue themselves.

Over the past few month’s efforts have been made to ramp up pool openings, with baby swim schools back up and running and taking bookings, with many oversubscribed. Demand is there and parents are keen to get back in the water, but industry professionals worry that many Victorian pools closed for refurbishment, simply won’t reopen at all, with the latest estimates suggesting England alone will lose 2000 swimming pools by the end of the decade.

Splash About International Ltd, manufactures and supplies specialist baby and children’s swimming products globally, they say they have seen a steady increase in sales of baby and children’s swim products over the past month but have seen a slower start from smaller swim schools.

Bernadette Spofforth, Managing Director at Splash About says “We would encourage pool operators and leisure centres to listen to the Swim School industry and Swim England and increase children’s swimming class sizes to pre COVID levels, the risk of drowning is far greater than the risk of COVID spreading in a chlorinated pool”.

Swim England has joined with 9 pool operators across the U.K. to encourage parents to book their older children back into formal swimming lessons, with scientific data confirming COVID is made inactive by Chlorine and the huge amount of work undertaken by pool operators to ensure their pools are Covid Safe, it really is time to help our children get back into the pool.

The 4th of October sees the start of National Baby Swimming week, this is a key week in the swimming calendar, promoting the benefits of getting babies in the pool as early as possible, not only to gain confidence and overcome fear of the water, but experts have proved babies with an early exposure to prefundamental lessons benefit both cognitively and physically, helping with bonding, feeding and better sleep patterns. It remains a tragic fact that drowning is still a leading cause of death in the under 5’s worldwide, National Baby Swimming week plays a vital role in getting this message out to the public and supporting swim teachers and swim schools in their fantastic work.