Upton Junior School in Broadstairs is backing Olympic swimming gold medallist Duncan Goodhew’s call for all children to learn how to swim.
The school, which runs regular swimming sessions at its on-site pool for all girls and boys as part of their PE lessons, is renowned for leading the way in junior swimming and has been Thanet champions for the last 15 years.
Mr Goodhew is president of the Swimathon Foundation charity that has a Covid relief fund to support aquatics organisations.
Michaela Lewis, Executive Head Teacher at the Viking Academy Trust that includes Upton, said the school “totally supports” the call by the 1980 Moscow Games winner that signing children up for lessons should be a major priority for parents.
She said: “We are extremely fortunate to have a pool on site and it is a marvellous and very important resource for our pupils who live in an area surrounded by water and many of them enjoy the seaside during the summer.
“We believe being able to swim is imperative for our boys and girls safety, fitness and enjoyment. Having an awareness and a respect for the water is a central part of our teaching.
“Upton children are able to swim as part of their PE lessons in every year group, and this is a fantastic opportunity that no other local school can offer.
“We know swimming has so many benefits for children and this is why we worked hard to save the pool from late 2014 through a massive school and public community effort that raised funds for urgent repairs to ensure this much-needed in-demand facility would stay open for pupils and community groups.
“Swimming is a statutory requirement of the National Curriculum for all children in England and Wales, and the Department for Education guideline that children should learn to swim 25m – the length of most pools – is particularly relevant given our coastal location.
“At a time when pools are catching up with the backlog caused by pandemic lockdown and a reported 240,000 youngsters missing out on lessons, we urge parents and carers to do all they can to get their children back into the water for supervised lessons.”
With Covid restrictions lifting, school swimming has been able to resume at Upton where pupils swim weekly as part of their PE lessons, learning how to swim in four strokes: front crawl, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly, as well as how to perform safe self-rescue in differing situations.
Claire Tyler has two children at the school said: “Living on the coast means that it’s so important children learn to swim. I love the fact that the children have swimming lessons for free each week as part of their PE. It means that after four years at the school they are much more confident swimmers and safer in the water.”
Pupil Aurora, aged 11, said: “It’s so exciting that we can go swimming again. I was a bit nervous before we went back into the pool because it had been so long but it was great fun.”
Head of School Darci Arthur said: “Swimming and water safety lessons are a compulsory part of the national curriculum yet around one in five children leave primary education unable to swim.
“Having the pool at Upton allows children of all abilities to improve their swimming, from children who can’t swim at all when they start the school to our swimming and biathlon teams, who have been national champions.”
Upton also works alongside Thanet Surf School with Year 5 and 6 pupils learning kayaking, bodyboarding, paddleboarding, and surfing skills.
They also learn about staying safe in the sea – water and sea safety is also taught as part of Upton’s ‘personal development curriculum’.
Upton, which hosts a range of community sporting events from major football and rugby events to its own cross country tournaments, has a high swimming pedigree as Thanet champions for the last 15 years, as well as enjoying success at county, regional and national level.