Forty per cent of British children cannot swim, according to new figures, and it is up to their parents to make sure that they learn this important life skill, Rebecca Adlington, the Olympic medallist, has said.
While 25 per cent of parents believe it is the responsibility of schools, and the government, to teach children to swim, Adlington, who won two gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games and two bronze medals in 2012, said: “Parents forget that swimming is a life skill, and they need to take a bit of responsibility.”
British parents are failing to meet that responsibility, however. While 60 per cent of parents admitted in the survey commissioned by Speedo that they worried about their children drowning as a result of poor swimming skills, nearly half of those questioned did not believe learning to swim was an important life skill.
And nearly three quarters of British children had never had a swimming lesson, or been taught by their parents. This results in one in ten children experiencing an accident in the water due to lack of swimming experience, the survey found.
The 23-year-old swimmer, along with her mother, Kay, teamed up with Speedo on Thursday to launch a learn-to-swim. Children are invited to design a swimming character to join other members of Speedo’s “Sea Squad” team. Parents can enter their child’s drawing in the S Factor competition here, in order to win a pool party hosted by Adlington and the chance to see their child’s character come to life.
“We want to engage children with swimming through the competition and get them enjoying the water safely, reducing the number of accidents occurring in the water due to a lack of experience,” said Sally Polak, from Speedo UK. “Winter is the perfect time to get to a leisure centre and away from the cold weather and our tips for parents through our Learn to Swim campaign will help build the child’s confidence in the water.”
Adlington said: “I got into swimming because my parents took me for lessons from the age of three; they never thought I’d go on to become an Olympic athlete. But now parents say to me: ‘I’m getting my kid involved because they watched you on TV’.”
Kay Adlington said she brought Rebecca, and her two older sisters, for lessons as a way to have fun, but also as a safety precaution. “Swimming is a life skill. If you have young children who want to play outside, they need to know what to do with water. It could save their lives.
“You see so many parents with children in parks, with stabilisers on bikes, teaching them to ride. As parents we want our children to know manners, basic respect, eating, crossing the road – and we must teach them how to stay safe in the water. Plus, swimming builds confidence, and they have so much fun!”
Water safety and confidence are skills that should be taught from an early age, said Mrs Adlington. “Before all of the girls were three, the girls would have a bath, with lots of bubbles, and we’d hide the toys under the water, and they’d search for them. Even as a tiny baby, you must get them used to water.”