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European Swimming Federation LEN has released new minimum learn to swim standards to ensure young people are taught the same skills regardless of the country they live in.
Jon Glenn, Learn to Swim Director at Swim England, has been representing the UK during the development of the standards. He attended the launch in December held in Copenhagen, Denmark.
“This is an important step to ensuring all children learn the key swimming techniques”, said Glenn. “Across Europe swimming standards differ greatly. No country has developed a fool-proof system which means all children have the required knowledge about swimming and water safety that will keep them safe if they get into trouble.
“The launch of these agreed standards is definitely a step in the right direction. But there is still a long way to go to ensure each country is able to implement them.”
One of the key standards is to ensure that by age 11 all children are able to swim 200 metres without stopping using front crawl, backstroke and breaststroke.
Glenn, who is also a member of the Swim Group that reviewed the state of Curriculum Swimming and Water Safety in England, hopes the introduction of the LEN standards will further help improve swimming in primary schools.
“At present, the national curriculum guidance for swimming requires pupils in key stage 1 and 2 to be able to swim at least 25 metres unaided. The Swim Group has long advocated that the 25 metre distance should be increased, and this new LEN guidance will help us to continue to advocate a longer minimum distance with government.”
Other key standards listed in the LEN guidance include treading water, floating and sculling skills for those aged between eight and 11-years-old, and for older children, water safety and jumping in safely.
The guidance also includes specific sections relating to facilities, minimum standards of qualifications for teachers, supervision, safety, safeguarding and health.
The new standards are live now, but European countries will spend time looking at their own programmes to ensure all the measures are incorporated.
Glenn said: “From a UK perspective we will continue to work with colleagues at Swim Wales and Scottish Swimming to ensure all our relevant Learn to Swim programmes incorporate the European standards.
“Although there is still a long way to go, it is a great start to ensuring all our young people are able to enjoy the water safely.”