Ellie Simmonds and Adam Peaty call for action as one in four children can't swim

Swimming is a potentially life-saving skill that is not enjoyed equally across society. 

Research shows around 80% of Black children and 78% of Asian children in England do not swim.

To try and raise awareness of the issue and improve accessibility, some of Britain's top athletes have got together with the goal of teaching more than 1,000 children to swim and inspiring thousands more. 

In Smethwick, swimwear brand Speedo has launched a campaign calling for tangible action from the government.

It has partnered with The Black Swimming Association (BSA) and Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) to launch Swim United - alongside Walsall-born Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmons and Olympic swimmer Adam Peaty, who is from Uttoxeter.  

Ellie Simmonds speaks about the importance of the campaign

Ellie Simmonds said: "Swimming is for all and the importance of getting everyone involved in swimming and not just to be the next Olympians or Paralympians, but to be safe around the water, I think it's so, so, so important.”

Adam Peaty said: "We’re surrounded by water everywhere we go, lakes, rivers, canals, with a whole body of ocean around us and yet one in four children still live in school and they can't swim.

"That number is only going to increase if we don't hold onto facilities, invest in facilities, also invest in the children and invest in the programs that make it accessible, such as school. 

"No one should be paying to go for a swim at a young age."

Adam Peaty says nobody should be paying to go for a swim at a young age.

Research shows:

  • Only 42% of school children in the most deprived areas of the country can swim

  • 80% of Black children and 78% of Asian children in England do not swim

  • 95% of Black adults and 93% of Asian adults in England do not swim

The National Curriculum states that by the time children leave primary school, they should be able to swim 25 metres unaided. 

But research shows that nearly one in four children do not achieve this goal and leave primary school without this vital life skill. 

Danielle One, Chair of the Black Swimming Association said: "The water has no colour. Water is supposed to be a place for everyone, and every child is supposed to find their way into the water.

"The BSA has set out some research to find out exactly why we're not swimming, in some cases, cultural in other cases, its schools not really having the provision in certain areas, especially where there's high deprivation for children."

More than half a million children from ethnically diverse communities have missed out on swimming due to the pandemic. Most children learn to swim at school and with in-person teaching massively disrupted, many have lost this opportunity.

Speedo is calling on the government to make three key changes to help more children to learn to swim:

  • Ring fence school swimming spending so that is can only be spent on swimming and ensure the school regulator Ofsted measures swimming as part of its inspections.

  • Help with the cost of energy crisis at home and for pool operators to ensure they remain open.

  • Support with community outreach programs to better understand and reach communities that are not engaged in the water.