Why it makes sense to get in the swim

PUBLISHED: 06:48 21 April 2017 | UPDATED: 07:55 21 April 2017

How many lives must be lost before learning to swim is made a priority? Picture: Fiona Hanson/PA Wire

How many lives must be lost before learning to swim is made a priority? Picture: Fiona Hanson/PA Wire

Nick Conrad on why 
the EDP is right to encourage every child to learn to swim

In a week when we are all braced for a bombardment of campaigns, I’m delighted to put my name to this non-political one.

The EDP this week launched their drive to encourage youngsters to swim. It’s essential that every child learns to swim, especially to be water-safe. As parents we should introduce our children to swimming early on so that they have the skill for their whole life. This can help improve their overall physical and mental health.

Interestingly, many animals are born with the ability to swim, but sadly we humans must learn before being able to go for a dip with ease. Those who never learn often fear water – it’s not an irrational fear. A third of children in England cannot swim by the time they leave primary school.

In fairness the government tried to tackle this, setting an ambitious target. The Department for Education said schools must provide lessons and pupils must be taught to swim 25 metres unaided. The Government expects all pupils to meet this benchmark as part of the national curriculum before they leave primary school.

Swimming is a vitally important skill for our youngsters. Since the level of swimming ability has risen, we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in incidents of drowning or ‘near-drowning’ in the UK. Jumping into a swimming pool is pure joy for most of us. I remember learning to swim at Splash in Sheringham. Coaxed by the promise of chocolate for achieving a width, I loved my trips to the pool. The skills I learnt, I then put to use in the salty brine of the North Sea.

In Norfolk the impetus on encouraging children to swim early has additional significance. Our county, with its beach culture or inland waters, offers tempting bathing opportunities in the summer. Sadly this is when many individuals run into trouble. We’ve had far too many drowning incidents in our county. In most circumstances, a lack of confidence or ability in water has contributed to a tragedy.

But let’s go through three conclusive reasons why we should all be learning how to swim.

1) An obvious reason for learning how to swim is to acquire the ability to survive in water. At one time or another, you are bound to find yourself in or near water, whether you’re on a cruise, boating trip, fishing or lounging by a pool with friends. If the water is deeper than your height, and you find yourself in it, knowing how to swim could save your life.

2) Most doctors agree that swimming is a healthy form of exercise. It requires you to use many of the muscles in your body, beneficial for your metabolism and cardiovascular system. The water provides a natural resistance when you are swimming, while also making the activity less strenuous on your body.

3) The pleasure of being able to spend time in the water is very important. A swim in the pool or in the North Sea on a hot summer day can help you feel relaxed. The water is a suitable way to be social with friends through activities such as surfing, water skiing or jet skiing. These exciting activities are difficult to enjoy without the knowledge of swimming.

Creating pools that are accessible for the public should be a high priority for schools and councils. Often schemes are too expensive and unachievable, but where possible we should look to improve these facilities. Swimming is the most-participated sport in the country - but we need to look at this pastime as a lifestyle and important life skill.

I just don’t understand how so many children can leave school not being able to swim. Reversing these statistics is important. This is why I believe passionately in the EDP’s latest campaign.

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