Children at risk of swimming dangers as research shows 3.4m don't meet standards by age 11

More than 3.4m children are not meeting new minimum standards for swimming lessons outside of school, research has shown.

In Leeds, a quarter of parents said their children have had no swimming lessons at all, and 17 per cent of parents say their child used to have swimming lessons outside of school but then stopped them, with over half (54 per cent) stopping lessons by the age of six.

Some 96 per cent of children across England are not meeting targets set by Swim England for those between ages 7-11.

In Leeds, a quarter of parents said their children have had no swimming lessons at all, and 17 per cent of parents say their child used to have swimming lessons outside of school but then stopped them, with over half (54 per cent) stopping lessons by the age of six.

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The research, conducted by the government swimming body, found that most children are stopping swimming lessons too early according to their targets.

The majority of parents stop taking their children to lessons at seven-and-a-half years old.

But Swim England has advocated that lessons should continue until a child is deemed a “competent swimmer.”

This means they are able to swim at least 100 metres without stopping, tread water for 30 seconds, experience swimming in clothing and can “float to live” by performing a star float on their back for at least 30 seconds.

The lack of children who can “float to live” is of particular concern, Swim England has said, because just one in seven parents correctly thought that their child would perform the star float if they fell into open water, with more than a quarter believing that they would instead try to swim to safety, which is far more dangerous.

But some 81 per cent of parents want their children to learn to swim so they can look after themselves if they get into trouble, leading Swim England to urge them to continue with lessons.

There are fears from the government body that lockdown has impacted the swimming ability of many children, with 72 per cent of parents saying they hadn’t been swimming with their children in the last month or even longer.

Swim England has set the new minimum standards to allow parents to make an informed decision as to when to stop lessons.

It comes as parents said the main reasons for not providing formal swimming lessons outside of school were; being too busy because of other extra-curricular activities, not seeing the need because of lessons in school and their children being able to swim already.

Duncan Goodhew, president of Swimathon and Olympic swimming gold medallist, said: “Learning about when it is safe to swim and how to look after yourself is vital for children across the country to enjoy a lifetime of water fun and adventures.

“Many families will have stayed in the UK this year and we’ve heard many stories of children getting into trouble which is a particularly frightening experience for parents.

“These new standards are great for making it clearer for parents and guardians to make informed decisions. I urge parents to prioritise keeping your child in swimming lessons until your child is water competent.”