More than two million youngsters missed out on the chance to go swimming due to the coronavirus pandemic – resulting in almost a quarter of a million children being unable to swim the length of a standard swimming pool.
New data released by Swim England has revealed the true extent the national lockdowns over the past 12 months have had on youngsters and the stark reality that a generation may miss out on learning a valuable life skill.
Swim England has now joined forces with nine swimming pool operators up and down the country to urge parents and guardians to ensure children return to ‘safe and secure’ swimming lessons as part of its latest #LoveSwimming campaign.
The statistics show that more than five million swimming sessions – the vast majority being swimming lessons – were lost following the closure of public pools for the first time on 20 March 2020.
That has already led to an additional 240,000 missing out on learning how to swim 25m and 50,000 fewer children now being able to perform a safe self-rescue.
The latest wave of the #LoveSwimming campaign has shown how swimming lessons are held in covid-secure environments and how vital they are to keep youngsters safe, fit and healthy.
Indoor pools were allowed to reopen on Monday 12 April and Jane Nickerson, Swim England chief executive, said people were returning to the water in droves.
She said: “We are absolutely thrilled to see swimming pools across the country reopen their doors and it’s been great that parents and children are returning to their lessons in a safe and Covid-secure environment.
“Swimming is a fantastic way for children and young people to be active and reap both physical and mental health benefits.
“However, being able to swim and stay safe in the water is also an invaluable life skill. With access to facilities limited due to the pandemic, we expect that there will be some regression amongst children’s swimming ability.
“With summer upon us, I fear for children’s safety in the water and would strongly recommend parents and guardians to be proactive in making up for the lost time.
“I hope that through regular swimming lessons and more pool time, we will be able to avoid ‘a lost generation’ of children and young people who cannot swim and keep themselves safe in the water.”
Leon Taylor, Olympic medallist and dad to ten-month old Ziggy, is keen to start Ziggy’s water journey soon.
“Swimming has become such a huge part of my life again in recent years and I swim in the sea almost everyday – even in the winter,” said Leon, who won a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games in the 10m Synchro alongside Peter Waterfield.
“However, the last year has meant that Ziggy (born June 2020) has never even been to swimming pool so his only water-based experiences are in the bath.
“We can’t wait to start him in swimming lessons to teach him such a vital life skill.”
One parent, Amy McCarthy, a mum of two from Littlehampton, was confident her two children aged five and seven would be able to make up for lost time now indoor pools had reopened.
She said: “We absolutely love going swimming as a family and think it’s so important that the children are able to swim and have fun in the water.
“The last year has brought about so many challenges, including trying to keep the kids active and moving.
“It has been wonderful seeing them back in their swimming lessons. I have definitely noticed both my son and daughter’s swimming ability has deteriorated but I’m confident that we’ll be able to make up for lost time.”
Find swimming lessons near you at swimming.org/loveswimming.