Schools: Swimming and Life-saving Skills - Question for Short Debate

– in the House of Lords at 9:02 pm on 6th March 2019.

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Photo of Lord Storey Lord Storey Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Education) 9:02 pm, 6th March 2019

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to improve the swimming and life-saving skills of children provided through schools.

Photo of Lord Storey Lord Storey Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Education)

My Lords, I declare my interest as a patron of the Royal Life Saving Society. I thank those organisations which have sent briefings, particularly the Royal Life Saving Society, the MCA, the RNLI, the Local Government Association and our own Library, all of which have been very helpful. I thank, too, those few Members who are here; I am sorry that the debate is happening so late.

Swimming is a bit like riding a bike. Once you learn to do it, you never forget it. The best time to learn to swim is when you are very young, although taking 30 infants to the swimming pool once a week was a nightmare in terms of getting them dressed and undressed.

I was asked last October to go to Worcester Cathedral, where the Royal Life Saving Society has its annual awards for volunteers. Before that event, a family went into one of the private chapels and lit a candle, because their son had tragically died in a drowning accident. I can think of nothing worse than receiving the telephone call, the knock on the door or the visit from the police or emergency services to say that family or friends have died in such tragic circumstances, yet, every year, on average 600 people lose their lives through drowning.

Quite rightly, we are at the moment concerned about knife crime and asking, “What can we do to prevent knife crime?” That is a tragic occurrence and lives are needlessly lost. Equally, through drowning, lives are needlessly lost, but there are things that we can do about it. One is to ensure that children and young people can swim. It must be concerning that only somewhere in the order of just over 50% of children leave primary school being able to swim. That really is quite a worrying figure.

I want to praise the Government first of all. The decision to introduce CPR and first aid as part of health education is a very good move forward. I congratulate them on that and thank them. They should at the same time realise that, just as we will be teaching children first aid, we should also be teaching them water safety. Children and young people need to know that if they see someone in difficulties, they should not automatically jump into the sea or the lake or the river or the canal to help them because they might put their own life in danger. There are simple things they can do: they need to know the colour of the various flags being flown at the seaside and a whole host of other things about water safety. It seems to me to be a really good fit to learn CPR, life-saving skills, first aid and water safety. I put down a Written Question about this a few weeks ago, and the Minister gave a very detailed reply. I hope that in his response, he might add to that.

Swimming is, of course, one of the best defences against drowning and we must ensure that we teach children to swim. I am sure that in his reply, the Minister will tell us that swimming and water safety are taught in primary schools and are a compulsory element in the PE curriculum. However, I question that because they do not have to be taught in all schools: they do not have to be taught in free schools or academies, and he will know that more than 1,000 schools do not teach them at all. Perhaps it is no wonder that just over 50% of children are leaving school unable to swim. We should ensure that every school has the facilities. If there are no swimming pools—if they are in a rural area, for example—there are ways around that. For example, there are mobile pools that can be inflated—children can get into them and learn basic swimming strokes.

We should be bold enough to say, “We want to ensure that nearly every child who leaves primary school can swim. In every school, every city, every village, every town and every county, every child should learn to swim”. Perhaps we should suggest targets: we are good at setting targets on the number of apprentices we are going to have. Why not set a first target that over the next period—say over the next three years—we want 60% or 70% of children, when they leave their primary school, to be able to swim? Just think of the lives that we would save.

Of course, it is not just the people who drown whom we are discussing. It is also the non-fatal drowning cases, sometimes referred to as near-drowning. For every person who loses their life through drowning, there are six hospital admissions through near-drowning. This is, again, unacceptable. If we were to sort out the issue, it would also relieve pressure on our hospitals.

I know that the Government are anxious about this. They set up the Swim Group to submit an independent report with recommendations for curriculum swimming; its final report was submitted to the Government in the spring of 2017. It focused on six key areas and made 16 really good practical recommendations for improving curriculum swimming in primary schools. New guidance on the PE and sport premium has been released to help schools understand how they can use this funding to support swimming and water safety sessions. There is also a requirement to show the percentage of pupils in year 6 who meet the minimum national curriculum standards.

I have a question for the Minister. I think I gave him notice and if I did not, perhaps he could tell me in writing. One of the issues about the whole question of drowning is that it is left to the voluntary organisations—which do fantastic work and, in common parlance, I give a big shout-out to them and all their volunteers—to do the recording of drowning incidents. It would make their job significantly less difficult if the statutory bodies were required to contribute to the database, either directly or through one of these voluntary bodies. Will the Government make the reporting of drowning to the National Water Safety Forum mandatory for the NHS, coroners, the fire and rescue service and the police service, so that we can know, quickly and accurately, the number of people who have drowned and the lessons we can learn? I am happy for the Minister to write to me about that.

I want to raise one other issue. There has been, over the last few years, an increasing number of students at our universities losing their lives through drowning, often, or in most cases, alcohol related. There was the recent tragedy of a student at, I think, Reading University, who died in the lake on the campus. We ought to be writing to student unions at universities, copying in vice-chancellors, suggesting that they should make their students aware of the issue and give them some simple and non-patronising advice about how they should conduct themselves, because the trend is an alarming one and we must do something about it.

Finally, I quote Steve Parry, who, noble Lords will remember, was an Olympic swimming medallist:

Water safety is the only part of the national curriculum that will save children’s lives, it can’t be treated as an optional extra”.

Photo of Lord Dunlop Lord Dunlop Conservative 9:12 pm, 6th March 2019

My Lords, first, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Storey, on securing this short debate and on the thoughtful way in which he introduced it. I declare my interest as a board member of Scottish Swimming. The benefits of sport to physical and mental well-being are well documented and beyond dispute. This is particularly true of swimming, which is one of those sports that can be enjoyed at all ages and by people of all abilities throughout life. It is no surprise, therefore, that swimming remains one of the most popular mass-participation sports in the country, with 2.5 million people swimming at least once a week. The ability to swim is also essential for at least 20 other water-based sports, such as canoeing, rowing or sailing, but what sets swimming apart from other sports is that it is a key life and life-saving skill, which every child has a right, and should have the opportunity, to acquire.

The noble Lord, Lord Storey, mentioned drowning and it is a sad fact that accidental drowning is the third-highest cause of death in children. Talking from my own Scottish experience, in Scotland the total of accidental drownings is 50 per year. That is 50 too many and almost double the rate of drowning in the UK as a whole. Perhaps this is explained by Scotland’s extensive and varied coastline.

As the noble Lord, Lord Storey, mentioned, in England the importance of swimming has been recognised by virtue of the fact that it is a compulsory part of the national curriculum, and has been since 1994. I will again draw a contrast with Scotland, where education is devolved to the Scottish Government—happily, the Minister therefore does not have responsibility for it. There the system is different. Swimming is neither mandatory nor part of the curriculum, although I hope this is something the Scottish Government will now look at.

However, one of the features of devolution is the scope to adopt different approaches in different parts of the country and then to share experiences across the UK of what does and does not work. In that spirit, perhaps the Minister, when he winds up, could say what, if any, discussions there have been between his department and the Scottish Government to share best practice. There is certainly very close co-operation and a shared vision among the swimming governing bodies in England, Scotland and Wales. We all want to ensure that every child has the opportunity to learn to swim at primary school and that no child leaves school unable to swim with confidence.

I too congratulate the Government on the action they have taken. Swim England has acknowledged the Government’s consistent support for school swimming. I welcome the fact that, as the noble Lord, Lord Storey, said, the Government, established in 2016 a working group to consider the challenges of delivering curriculum swimming and water safety lessons and have since acted on its recommendations. In particular, primary schools are now able to use the extra funding from the PE and sport premium to top up swimming lessons and to provide extra teacher training. This action is certainly timely, because there is still a mountain to climb—or perhaps more appropriately when talking about swimming, a gulf to cross—to arrive where we need to be.

Some of the working group’s 2017 findings on primary school delivery of swimming at key stages 1 and 2 are troubling: 26% of primaries are either not currently providing swimming lessons or not recording any attainment levels; 27% are providing lessons but not getting the results on any of the three national curriculum outcomes; and 11% are providing lessons but getting results on only one of the outcomes—swimming 25 metres unaided. That leaves 36% of primary schools providing lessons with all children reaching the national curriculum standards.

As part of the package of changes introduced by the Government last year, my understanding is that primary schools are now required to publish their swimming and water safety attainment levels as a condition for receiving funding under the PE and sport premium. If this is so, it is clearly welcome and will improve levels of accountability. Can the Minister confirm that this is indeed the case, and can he provide any recent data, two years on, to show whether the picture is improving?

The challenges in Scotland are similar. Over 30% of children in Scotland leave primary school unable to swim. For those from the most deprived backgrounds, school swimming is likely to be their only opportunity to learn to swim. In Scotland, 25% of children aged between five and 12 take part in community Learn to Swim programmes. The majority of these children are from the 20% least deprived areas of Scotland. Only 10% of those taking part come from the most deprived parts of Scotland, so school swimming has a vital role to play. However, a quarter of Scotland’s local authorities —8 out of 32—do not offer a primary school swimming programme, and those that do vary between schools opting in and comprehensive programmes. The picture is very varied.

The relevance of the Scottish experience for England is that, for five years, until it was ended in 2015, the Scottish Government supported school swimming through investment in a national top-up swimming programme. Most of the funding was used to improve the quality of the school swimming programmes by reducing child-to-teacher ratios, which in many cases were as high as 25:1. This funding was starting to make a difference, with some areas reporting a 5% to 10% increase in the number of children achieving the Scottish triple swimming standard and increasing the number of children in the most deprived areas learning to swim.

The lesson from the Scottish experience is that relatively modest levels of investment, effectively targeted, can have a disproportionately beneficial impact. Although funding was not extended beyond 2015, it is encouraging that there appears to be a renewed willingness on the part of the Scottish Government to explore what practical steps are needed to ensure that every child in Scotland can swim.

In conclusion, whether north or south of the border, the aspirations and the challenges are similar. If our children are to acquire this lifelong skill, it is important that their initial experience of swimming needs to be fun and positive. That is why school swimming programmes should not be about simply the numbers game, about how many children we can get through the programme. Quality is critical, and quality means: first, sufficient and consistent availability of properly trained swimming teachers, with the time to get to know the kids and sufficient pool time in modern facilities to make a difference; secondly, effective communication between pool operators or swim schools and primary schools so that one hand knows what the other is doing, and attainment is accurately recorded and passed on; thirdly, overcoming transport issues and getting easily from school to pool without taking too much time out of the weekly timetable; and fourthly, the ability to cater for diverse and special needs.

All this will help to secure better buy-in from both primary teachers and parents and to enhance prospects of success. The Government’s aspirations are rightly ambitious. Of course, there are considerable challenges to overcome but, overall, things appear to be moving in the right direction, but we need to move further and faster.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat 9:22 pm, 6th March 2019

My Lords, this is one of those debates in which you find yourself rapidly agreeing with everybody in front of you. The basic tenet of it—that swimming is a skill that will save your life and is best learned early—will have nobody disagreeing. The fact that it is a social skill that allows you to do other things is pretty obvious as well. I asked the Minister if he had a list of all those sports you cannot do. The noble Lord, Lord Dunlop, said there were 20. I did not get that far. I just knew that there was a big list of activities which are not available to you if you cannot swim.

There is a little bit of social isolation in there as well, and it is something that is dangerous. It is something which we are supposed to be doing. The noble Lord read out a list of figures I had seen as well. More than a quarter of schools are not doing anything. The Government set targets. How are we not actually implementing this? If we have got ourselves into a mess where a few people are saying, “We can’t get there, we can’t afford the bus fare to get to a pool because the local authority has shut it down because it didn’t have enough budget”, this may go beyond the Minister’s area of control, but this is a factor that plays into it. There is no way that you can ignore the capacity in local government with this figure because most schools, particularly junior schools, do not have their own pool.

We can also say, “What about independent schools? How are we accessing them? How are they helping?”, but ultimately it is still the transport to them. There is a big interaction here going on from the various bits of government and the approaches to it. The prioritisation of this is very important as well. Is this regarded as something that you will have to do, or something that you will fit in round the edges?

When most of these situations come up—usually less life-threatening ones—it is the same thing that is happening in education in other areas, such as the arts, sport, et cetera. An interaction here is of course more direct—“Here is your core, and here are the things we would like you to do”. Learning to swim cuts across this. It becomes a real priority, so the figure of 26% of primary schools is utterly unacceptable. It would be nice to hear from the Minister exactly what we are doing to address that.

I return to the idea of sports, and the idea the noble Lord, Lord Dunlop, mentioned, that swimming is one of those activities that are easier to do in later life. If you are in water that carries your weight, you are less likely to damage yourself in various ways. That applies if you are taking exercise, and it is useful for rehabilitation from sports injuries—even for horses—and it is a good way of taking gentle exercise. It is also an essential part of making sure that there is social interaction in many mainstream sports that are readily available; canoeing is one example. How can you get in there and become a part of it? We often talk about mental health problems, and once you are part of that sport, company, activity and focus help. If you take that away, you are cutting off whole bits of activity.

The anecdotage of the Bishops’ Bar comes out. Somebody said to me, “I knew somebody who was a good sportsman and went to live in Australia. He discovered that he couldn’t swim, so he spent large parts of his life watching the rest of his family on the beach as he hid from the sun under towels”. Possibly that is a more jokey part of it, but it is still something that says, “You can’t do it”.

How are we doing on water safety? The fact of the matter is that if you fall into certain types of water, it does not matter how good you are at swimming—you are in real trouble. Deep, cold and fast-running water are things we do not like being in. If you hit cold water, you go into a sort of system shock, where you try to take a breath, and if you are underwater, you are probably not getting out. So training about what to avoid and what not to go near is another important part of this.

How do we train people to make sure that you do not go in there—you do not swim in that small river with a current of, say, a couple of knots, because most people cannot swim against that, and they cannot do it for any length of time? That sort of education is also a key part of what is going on, making sure that you stay safe. It is also a good thing if you are taking it as a social activity, because you will know the limitations of your capacity as a swimmer. This is the sort of information that we need, and we need it early.

We live predominantly in cities, and virtually all of them have rivers running through them; that is probably why they were built there in the first place. We have access to open, cold, running water all the time. Mix that with alcohol—we have a habit of building bars beside these nice bits of water—and we end up with situations where people go in. Something else that comes in here is whether people know—it may cut through the fog of the cheap cocktail—that you should not go for a little paddle in there now, and whether your friends, who are hopefully not quite as far gone, know what to do to get you out and call for help. There is no downside to making sure that we get better figures for making sure that people can swim, and early on. I hope that when the Minister gives his answer, he will be able to do that.

I have one last specific question, which I sent through to the Minister’s office. There seems to be a suggestion in the briefing provided by the Library that those with special educational needs in schools are not getting access to this. Anybody who has suffered me in a series of debates on this subject will know that that is one of my key areas. However, I do not think that we are talking about dyslexics en masse but about specific groups. Are we, for instance, talking about groups of people who are autistic, because they are difficult and people do not want them in that situation, or are other groups included in that because it is not considered that they would benefit? Many people with quite alarming physical disabilities can swim—they can action in water. It might even be easier for them. What are we doing to make sure that they get access as well? It may be of even greater benefit to them than it is for people in the mainstream, because it may be an area of exercise that they can take safely once they have had that initial training. I hope the Minister will have an answer on that. If not, I hope he will write to me, because we should look at it.

I look forward to the Minister’s reply because this is something we should all be working together to achieve. I can see no party-political advantage in not achieving it.

Photo of Lord Watson of Invergowrie Lord Watson of Invergowrie Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 9:30 pm, 6th March 2019

My Lords, we are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Storey, for initiating this debate on the very important—though often underreported—subjects of swimming and life-saving skills. All primary-aged children should learn to swim. It is a basic life skill and a life-saving skill, whether it involves developing the ability to save themselves—and possibly others as well—in difficult circumstances, or learning particular life-saving skills, such as CPR and how to get help in a medical emergency.

The Government seem to be clear on the additional action required to achieve this, as evidenced by the announcement in October 2018 that primary schools were to receive extra support and improved guidance to help make sure that all children can swim confidently and know how to stay safe in and around water. It is to involve the provision of more swimming lessons, extra teaching and improved guidance, supported by the PE and sport premium. All this is to be welcomed.

What was not spelled out was how much of the PE and sport premium would be dedicated to this extra support for swimming and life-saving skills. The premium has around £300 million available to it, so can the Minister say whether the swimming initiative is to be taken from that, or have new resources been allocated to fund the enhanced activity?

Presumably, the intention is to build on the 2017 Review of Curriculum Swimming and Water Safety, published by the National Water Safety Forum—an association of bodies with a range of interests and responsibilities. As the noble Lord, Lord Storey, said, their review contained 16 recommendations to the Government. Almost two years later, how many of those recommendations have been met or are in the process of being met?

The Local Government Association has called on the Government to do more to raise awareness of water safety issues. It stressed that there needs to be greater emphasis in the school curriculum on water safety, drowning prevention and messages around cold water shock and what that can do to those who unexpectedly find themselves in water. The statistics that most resonated with me in the LGA briefing were that more people in the UK die each year from drowning than from fires at home, and that more people drown while out walking or running than while swimming.

These facts underline the need for young people to be prepared for the dangers that can await them. This is why the initiative announced by the Government in October last year is to be welcomed. It will be delivered in partnership with Swim England, as part of the Government’s sport strategy, Sporting Future, committed to ensuring that every child leaves primary school able to swim. This is a very necessary objective.

The measures were announced days after a government-backed review of swimming and water safety in primary schools, entitled Swim England Parents and Curriculum Swimming Research 2018, was published. That survey found that swimming standards vary in schools—as noble Lords have mentioned—despite it being compulsory in the national curriculum. Following its recommendations, the Government was said to be,

“working with Swim England to provide extra guidance to help schools deliver safe, fun and effective swimming lessons”.

This is necessary because, as the RNLI reported in its excellent briefing for this debate, and has been mentioned already, today around 1,000 schools in England do not teach swimming, even though it is a statutory requirement.

I hope the Minister will confirm that schools failing to meet their legal requirements will quickly and decisively be brought into line. These include academies, which may not have to follow the national curriculum but have a duty to see that their children are properly trained to ensure their safety. Children who attend schools that do not provide swimming lessons—and their parents—are being failed. This cannot be allowed to continue.

The problem may be much greater than this. There are around 18,000 primary schools in England. When the Swim England survey asked parents of children in reception, year 3 and year 6 about their child’s swimming provision—as the noble Lord, Lord Storey, said—it emerged that a mere 53% of primary school children in England have swimming lessons, just over half. For the figure to be 33% for reception children is perhaps not too much of a surprise, but for year 3 the figure was only 63%, with an even more disappointing 64% receiving lessons in year 6—that is, children aged 10 and 11. To say that there is much room for improvement would be an understatement.

Access to pools may be an issue, although that should not be used as an excuse, because timings can be flexible. The Local Government Association highlighted that 72% of primary schools use publicly owned facilities for their swimming activity, but access can be compromised as a result of issues of cost, availability and transport. Quite a few independent schools with swimming pools work in partnership with state schools to provide access, and I hope that that can be increased.

Swimming comes under physical education, and the narrowing of the curriculum since the introduction of the EBacc has reduced opportunities as a result. Recent research in secondary schools by the Youth Sport Trust found that timetabled PE time is decreasing, and the reduction is greater as students get older. At key stage 4, 58% of schools had reduced timetabled PE in the past five years, and nearly a quarter had done so in the past year. By the time young people are in sixth form, they are doing barely half an hour a week.

The same survey found that nearly 40% of teachers said that their provision had declined because core or EBacc subjects had been given additional time, with students taken out of timetabled PE for extra tuition in those subjects. Those results were cited last week by her Majesty’s chief inspector, who said that the result,

“chimes with our own two-year research programme on the curriculum”.

PE is likely to be a subject that has been affected by that curriculum narrowing, and it would appear that that is not contested by the DfE, because I found Amanda Spielman’s speech on its website. Children learning about water safety cannot be treated as an optional extra and must not be squeezed out of the curriculum.

Life-saving skills are equally important, and we welcome the announcement by the Secretary of State in January that all secondary school-leavers in England are to be taught cardiopulmonary resuscitation and general first aid for common injuries, including defibrillator use, from 2020. The British Heart Foundation described the plans as a decisive moment in attempts to improve on the less-than-10% survival rate for people in the UK with cardiac arrests while not in hospital. It is surely no coincidence that in countries that teach CPR in schools, cardiac arrest survival rates are more than double those in Britain. There are 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests every year and, each day, people needlessly die because bystanders do not have the confidence or knowledge to perform CPR and defibrillation. It is absolutely appropriate that all schoolchildren should be given the opportunity to learn these skills. Introducing CPR lessons in health education in all state-funded secondary schools is a significant step that could lead only to increased survival odds for countless people.

Of course, schools alone are not the answer. The responsibility for ensuring that children have enough opportunity not just to exercise and live healthier lives but build the skills that may save lives ultimately rests with parents. The combination of parental awareness and good-quality, consistent learning options in school will lead to future generations being better able to keep themselves and others safe.

Photo of Lord Agnew of Oulton Lord Agnew of Oulton The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education 9:37 pm, 6th March 2019

My Lords, I am pleased to answer this Question for Short Debate, and thank the noble Lord for raising the important issue of swimming and life-saving skills in schools. Swimming is a vital life-saving skill. This is why pupils are taught to swim and about water safety at primary school. I am delighted to be able to update the House today on the work the Government are doing to improve swimming and water safety skills in schools. Being able to swim and learn about water safety, including the dangers of open water swimming and cold water shock, can prevent accidents and drowning fatalities.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, asked how many sports are impacted by one’s ability to swim. It opens up opportunities to participate in a wide range of water-based activities, such as canoeing, rowing and sailing. I cannot get to the figure of 20 that he mentioned, but he is correct that it impacts on many opportunities, which is why all pupils should have the opportunity to learn to swim.

The Government support the view of the noble Lord, Lord Storey, that no child should leave primary school unable to meet a minimum standard of capability and confidence in swimming. This is reflected in the national curriculum, which includes swimming and water safety as compulsory elements at primary level. It also provides a frame of reference for academies in deciding what to offer as part of the broad and balanced curriculum. We know that too many pupils leave primary school unable to meet those expectations. We are working closely with colleagues in government and the sport and education sectors to raise attainment.

In 2015 the Government asked the Swim Group to submit an independent report setting out recommendations for improving curriculum swimming as part of the Sporting Future strategy. The Swim Group includes representatives from across the swimming and education sectors. The report demonstrated the need to do more to support schools in delivering swimming and water safety lessons to all pupils.

The noble Lord, Lord Watson, asked about progress in implementing the recommendations. To date we have implemented four of them. Sport England is also updating its facilities guidance for local authorities. We have increased the flexibility of pupil premium funding, and we are including a communications strategy, which was recommended, for educational stakeholders. For secondary schools we are also including an updated communications strategy. We took the recommendations very seriously, and we are endeavouring to implement as many as possible.

All primary schools in receipt of PE and sport premium, including academies, have to report on how many of their pupils meet the swimming expectations. We have increased support for schools to use their PE and sport premium to increase training and provide additional top-up swimming lessons. New free guidance is available from the Swim England website, which covers everything schools need to know about how to provide high-quality swimming and water safety lessons to all pupils.

We have worked with the Independent Schools Council to encourage meaningful partnerships between independent schools and their local state primaries. For example, Cheltenham Ladies’ College is working with local partners to provide additional swimming lessons to pupils not able to swim after being taught swimming in their core PE lessons.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, asked about SEND pupils. We agree that it is most important that all pupils have the ability to learn to swim. The Swim Group reported that not all pupils with SEND have access to swimming and water safety lessons in school. More work needs to be done to understand the current provision, and any barriers to inclusive lessons. We have funded a project to help address this issue—the Youth Sport Trust-led Inclusion 2020 project has identified five local areas to form partnerships to improve swimming and water safety: Durham, Dorset, Milton Keynes, Northamptonshire and West Yorkshire. We will review the evaluation of these local innovation partnerships when it is available in 2020.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington also asked about the resources available for swimming generally, and I can reassure him that, again, there is a lot going on. Sport England is working with nearly 100 local authorities that have plans for additional swimming pool provision. Since 2012 it has invested £67 million in 46 local authority facilities to include pools, which results in about £700 million in investment from those authorities.

We will continue to build on this work across government, working with and supporting schools, county sports partnerships, and swimming and water safety bodies and charities. We are working with Swim England to publish online videos that will support teachers in assessing pupils’ swimming capabilities. These will be available to all schools this spring. Our swimming and water safety communications activity will focus on supporting a water safety awareness week. This addresses part of the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, about highlighting the dangers of being around water. The awareness week will include information on that subject, and a new guidance pack for parents on school swimming and water safety will be published on the Swim England website by the end of March, including information on how to be safe in and around water.

The noble Lord, Lord Storey, asked some related questions—and one in particular, about drowning following excessive intake of alcohol. The noble Lord is right to highlight this as an important subject. Issues around alcohol will make up part of the health education taught in schools. Combating alcohol-related drowning is a priority for partners such as the Royal Life Saving Society, with its national campaign, “Don’t Drink and Drown”. This campaign reaches out to universities and warns drinkers to steer clear of walking by or entering water when under the influence of alcohol.

The noble Lord, Lord Storey, also asked about the collection of data on drowning. The collection of data on water-related incidents is an important part of reducing the number of deaths by drowning. I welcome the collaboration on data collection through the water incident database, but I will raise the issue with the Department for Transport, which has the overall responsibility for water safety.

County sports partnerships review schools’ reporting of the use of their PE and sport premium and this year we will be looking at those reports in more detail. We will be launching a school sports action plan in the spring of this year. It will have at its heart how sport can assist in the development of character and well-being in pupils. Swim England is involved in its capacity as a national governing body of sport.

My noble friend Lord Dunlop raised several questions. On the sharing of experiences between English and Scottish schools on swimming, Swim England is working closely with Swim Scotland and other swimming national governing bodies. They are sharing the outcomes of the Swim Group report and the government actions to support these national governing bodies to work with their own Governments.

My noble friend asked about data. The Active Lives Children and Young People Survey will provide annual data on swimming following findings on school swimming and water safety in the December 2018 publication of the survey. These annual findings will give us robust information on the swimming and water safety skills of pupils. We have also changed the reporting for primary schools to ensure that the mandatory requirement to report the use of the premium on their school website includes a requirement to publish information on their pupils’ swimming and water safety ability.

Lastly, my noble friend asked whether the picture is changing. Sports England’s Active Lives Children and Young People Survey collected data on more than 100,000 pupils and reported its first findings in December last year. Seventy-seven per cent of year 7 pupils reported being able to swim the 25 metre unaided requirement in that survey.

Life-saving teaching in schools also relates to work that the Government are doing in health education. We are making health education compulsory in all state-funded schools in England and voluntary teaching will begin in September of this year. In doing this we have responded to the sustained calls for mandatory first aid in schools so that pupils can have the access they need to knowledge about life-saving and first-aid skills.

The noble Lord, Lord Storey, asked about the teaching of water safety and rightly highlighted the importance of learning about it. Our guidance on health education encourages schools to look for opportunities to draw links between subjects and integrate teaching where appropriate. There will be an opportunity for schools to bring together what they teach in life-saving with their swimming lessons. The new water safety guidance pack can help them to do that more effectively.

We have proposed in the updated draft statutory guidance that health education will include first-aid and life-saving skills in core content for the first time. This will support whole school approaches to fostering pupil well-being and developing pupils’ resilience and ability to self-regulate. We encourage teachers to draw upon high-quality resources in the classroom, including guidance on first aid and emergencies from the British Red Cross, St John Ambulance and the British Heart Foundation.

As such, health education should complement what is already taught and develop pupils’ core knowledge and broad understanding to enable them to lead healthy, active lives. It will be up to schools to decide whether and how to build on the core swimming expectations in the context of their wider health education provision.

The debate we have had today has highlighted how important swimming and life-saving skills are.

Photo of Lord Watson of Invergowrie Lord Watson of Invergowrie Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

The Minister has answered a considerable number of questions but he has not answered one of mine in relation to the funding that supports the announcement in October last year of additional support for schools. The figure of £300 million in the PE and sport premium was mentioned. My question was whether the activities announced in October 2018 are to be paid for through that—and, if so, how much—or is it to be new resources from the DfE?

Photo of Lord Agnew of Oulton Lord Agnew of Oulton The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

Apologies to the noble Lord; I omitted that in my reply. Extra help for schools was announced on 18 October but there was no new funding specifically for school swimming. However, we have encouraged use of the £320-million PE and sport fund, from which all primary schools receive each year to support school swimming and water safety. This works out on average at about £18,000 per single-form-of-entry primary available for sports activity. More broadly, as part of the 2012 Olympic legacy, we have invested nearly £1 billion in sport in aggregate since then.

This debate has highlighted how important swimming and life-saving skills are, and the role that schools can play in teaching them. I hope that the range of actions I have set out demonstrate just how seriously the Government take the ambition that all pupils ought to leave primary school being able to swim, and that the new health education requirements can help to build on that. I hope all noble Lords will join me in doing all we can to make sure that schools are aware of the support and take advantage of it.

House adjourned at 9.50 pm.