Published: 13:52, 19 May 2022
| Updated: 15:20, 19 May 2022
A new study by the Swimming Teachers Association (STA) has found that one third of children do not know how to swim, due to both the cost of living crisis and ongoing impacts from the pandemic.
A Kent swimming instructor says that this is putting lives at risk and is calling for free lessons to be included as part of the school curriculum.
Angela Wilson from Angela's Swim School is concerned about the shocking statistics
One in three children do not know how to swim according to their parents, despite that fact that 96% of people in the UK agree it is important for a child to learn the skill.
As the cost of living crisis continues to hit homes across the county, over half of parents state that they are having to cut back on doing things for themselves to help pay for their child's extracurricular activities.
Swimming is the most popular hobby for children to take part in, with 38% joining a swim club - it's even more popular than football (29%) and dance lessons (21%).
Despite this there is still a huge number of children who cannot swim, with some parents having to cancel memberships to pay for necessities at home. The impact of the pandemic is also still being felt across the leisure sector.
Angela Wilson from Angela's Swim School, which runs classes across Kent, fears that this lifesaving skill is being overlooked and should be a priority for families and the government.
She said: "It's very worrying and it's something that I have been campaigning against myself for many many years to try and help improve these statistics.
"Fundamentally it is a lifesaving skill, so I think it's the most important thing a child can learn as to their education.
"For me, swimming should be something that should be as easy as walking, breathing, eating and talking.
"It should be a natural thing that every child is able to do from birth - there's no reason why any child should not be able to swim."
Angela added that the dangers of the water, especially in an area like Kent with a vast coastline, should be taught in school within the curriculum.
She continued: "I don't think that people realise how dangerous it is and I think part of the reason that this is happening is a lack of education.
"It's encouraged to be a fun environment, and yes of course we all want to enjoy the water, but that shouldn't be encouraged right from babies and it shouldn't be encouraged for toddlers to jump in and be playing in an environment that isn't safe until they know how to swim.
"People are obviously struggling because of the things that are happening within the world at the moment, but I also I think that if it's an educational life skill then it should be part of the curriculum.
"It's not seen as part of the curriculum within the schools, so the majority of schools are not able to get the access to the pools that they need in order to get the children learning to swim from an early age."
"I don't think that people realise how dangerous it is and I think part of the reason that this is happening is lack of education..."
With rising costs at home as well as things like fuel prices hitting a record high and inflation at the highest in 40 years, some pupils haven't been able to continue lessons due to their financial position.
Angela explained: "We have had people cancelling lessons because they can't afford them in some areas that potentially people haven't got the finances.
"We teach an enormous amount of children a week, through schools and also with our own swim school, and we are committed to try and help as many people as we can get access to swimming lessons.
"We've also created a digital online programme that we're hoping eventually will be able to be used as an added tool to give children encouragement and understand the dangers around water to keep them safe."
Another huge problem is the lack of local teachers - one in 10 parents said they couldn't find a teacher close to home.
Many people are now unable to afford travelling further to attend clubs due to fuel costs.
Angela said that this issue is partially due to the pandemic, with many courses closed and hopeful teachers unable to get the qualification.
She said: "There's a shortage of courses now across the UK and many people who wanted to become instructors have not been able to do that and get qualified.
"The other problem we've got as well is that a lot of swimming pools have been closed down and this is going to become even worse as time goes on with the living costs and also with the gas electricity going up.
"I think we're going to see more swimming pools close in the future, and this is going to increase the problems that we're seeing at the moment."