Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport



  1.  The Government welcomes the Committee's inquiry into the important sport of swimming. This memorandum seeks to address the issues the Committee has raised with Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions and Department for Education and Skills and sets out the wide range of Government policies which have an impact on swimming and/or seek to use swimming to meet Government objectives.

  2.  Swimming is a life skill, an activity which enhances health and one that enables people to access a wide range of leisure activities safely. It is a popular and healthy leisure and recreational activity for people of all ages and all abilities, including people with disabilities. It is a popular competitive sport and elite athletes have the power to inspire us all by their performances. When we think of British swimming we think of household names such as Duncan Goodhew, Adrian Moorhouse and Sharon Davies. From overseas, we all remember the performances of Mark Spitz at the 1972 Munich Olympics and more recently Ian Thorpe at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Finally, of course, we must remember that above all swimming is fun.


  3.  The Government recognises the importance of swimming in the primary school curriculum. Since the introduction of the National Curriculum, swimming has always been a compulsory element of the Physical Education National Curriculum as one of the six activities specified. It remained so even when programmes of study for the non-core subjects were temporarily suspended to allow for the establishment of the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies between September 1998 and July 2000.

  4.  The National Curriculum was revisited in 1999 taking on board the subject communities' concerns. As a result in National Curriculum 2000:

    —  the programme for swimming was renamed swimming activities and water safety to emphasise its vital contribution to safety;

    —  non-statutory programme was included in Key Stage 1 in addition to the revised statutory programme in Key Stage 2;

    —  the revised programme built on and enhanced the original programme set out in the previous National Curriculum for PE.

  5.  Since the introduction of the National Curriculum in 1988 PE has been a compulsory part of the Curriculum. Swimming was one of the six activities specified. The current programme of study state that by the end of Key Stage 2, children should have been taught to:

    —  pace themselves in floating and swimming challenges related to speed, distance and personal survival;

    —  swim unaided for a sustained period of time over a distance of at least 25 metres;

    —  use recognised arm and leg actions, lying on their front and back;

    —  use a range of recognised strokes and personal survival skills.


  6.  In an attempt to understand the real issues affecting teaching and learning of swimming the then DfEE commissioned OFSTED to produce a report on swimming at Key Stage 2 (published in November 2000).

  7.  The Government welcomed the generally positive report, which showed that in the schools inspected in November 1999 four out of five children were able to swim 25 metres at the end of Key Stage 2. However there were some aspects of the teaching of swimming at Key Stage 2 which caused particular concern:

    —  a small minority of schools did not cover the full programme of study, in particular the area of water safety;

    —  many schools did not make special provision for pupils who are unlikely to swim by the end of Key Stage 2;

    —  the coverall figure of four out of five pupils swimming 25 metres by Key Stage 2 conceals a significant variation depending on the location and Free School Meals banding of schools.


  8.  In response to the Ofsted report the then Schools Minister established the Swimming Advisory Group with the following terms of reference:

    "To consider the main findings of the OFSTED report, and other relevant survey findings, and to make recommendations of workable proposals, both in the short term and long term that address the main issues of concern, including water safety lessons, and how to increase the number of children who can swim 25 metres by Key Stage 2."

  9.  The group is due to produce a final report in December 2001. To date, the main focus for the group has been:

    —  Overall Swimming Strategy.

    —  Water safety.

    —  Continuing Professional Development and Training of teachers and adults other than teachers (AOTTS) including national governing body training schemes.

    —  Facilities.

  10.  A number of other initiatives already support swimming in schools.


  11.  School sport co-ordinators will provide opportunities for young people to compete regularly for their school and take part in a wide range of sports including swimming. In total there will be 250 families established with up to 6,000 primary schools benefiting directly from this programme. By 2004, 1,000 School Sports Co-ordinators will be established in communities of greatest need, based in families of schools linked wherever possible through LEAs to Specialist Sports Colleges. There are currently 372 co-ordinators in post, with 600 planned by July, next year.

  12.  Teachers in primary schools are not usually PE specialists. We recognise the need to support them. We will have 6,000 primary schools involved in the school sports co-ordinators programme in three years time, and teachers will have opportunities for training and sharing resources of secondaries, including sports colleges. Although the precise role of School Sports Co-ordinators is a local issue, we are confident that swimming will be an important aspect of this initiative.


  13.  Sports Colleges are, of course, free to offer swimming to their pupils and to pupils from their partner schools using Sports College funding should they decide that it is a local priority. There are currently 101 colleges in 68 LEAs. Sports Colleges receive £100,000 capital grant to enhance the school's facilities for physical education and sport. Over a four-year period, they receive additional recurrent funding of £123 per pupil up to 1,000 pupils. They also receive £123 per pupil of recurrent funding for every pupil on roll over 1,200 pupils. Decisions about spending priorities are a matter for individual Colleges.


  14.  Twelve of the 34 independent/state school partnerships funded this year (financial year 2001-02) focus on sport:

    —  seven of these are general sport projects aimed at increasing participation in Sport, one of which specifically seeks to broaden opportunities in swimming (and trampolining);

    —  the remaining five projects focus on identifying and supporting pupils with particular talent in sport. These all involve a specialist sports college and will also work with Youth Sport Trust and national coaching bodies across a range of sports, so may involve some swimming.


  15.  Sixty-five local education authorities were invited to submit proposals for capital funding to improve sports and arts facilities in primary schools through the Space for Sport and Arts programme. Although they were eligible to do so, none of the local education authorities submitted final proposals which related to swimming facilities. This is probably because programme funding is limited to £0.5 million per project and because of the high running costs associated with pools.


  16.  NOFs PE and Sport Programme will provide £581 million for the improvement of school sport facilities in England. Decisions on taking forward individual projects will be for local partnerships lead by the local education authority to determine. It is open to such partnerships to invest in swimming facilities if they decide that is where the greatest need lies.


  17.  Local authorities continue to be the principal providers of swimming facilities in England and indeed in all parts of the UK. There are currently around 1,400 public swimming and leisure pools in England. In recent years there has been a noticeable increase in the number of swimming facilities operated by the private sector, most of them are integrated within larger health and leisure clubs. The increasing demand for private sector facilities is clearly linked to a growing recognition of the importance of healthier lifestyles, but in some areas it is clear that growth has also been due to the poor quality of local facilities available.

  18.  Around 60 per cent of the entire stock of local authority swimming facilities were built between the 1960s and early 1980s. Due to a variety of factors, including poor interior and exterior design and low levels of funds allocated for maintenance during the facility's lifetime an increasing proportion of these facilities are now in need of significant capital investment. The Government believes that it is for local authorities to ensure that spatial development plans and local sports development policies reflect the importance of swimming and set aside sufficient investment to improve or, if necessary, to replace existing facilities. They should also identify sites for potential new facilities in their land use plans. However, the Government recognises that swimming facilities are amongst the most expensive sports facilities to construct and maintain and that even the most modern of facilities will usually require a long term commitment from the local authority to guarantee access for all income groups.

  19.  The Government is currently revising Planning Policy Guidance note 17—Sport and Recreation—and issued a revised draft for consultation earlier in the year. It is now considering the responses to that consultation exercise and awaits with interest the report of the Urban Affairs Select Committee's recent inquiry on this issue. The provision of indoor sports facilities which will include swimming pools is covered by the draft revised PPG and given the intensive use of such facilities the presumption in planning terms will be for such facilities to be readily accessible and therefore located in or adjacent to town or district or neighbourhood centres.

  20.  The key to provision of swimming facilities is that local authorities should determine—whether by direct provision or by private sector or by public private partnership—that such facilities are located where there is a proven need. Local authorities should undertake assessments of need and current provision as part of their local cultural strategies and/or local development plan. Increasingly, these plans will need to take much greater account of the trend towards increased private sector provision.

  21.  Sport England continue to work closely with local authorities and are able to offer advice using tools such as the Facilities Planning Model and on the design and layout of facilities. Up to September 2001 the Sport England Lottery Fund has invested £222 million in the development of swimming facilities making swimming the largest single benefactor of Sports Lottery Funding to date. This includes the building of the 50 metre pool at Loughborough and grants towards the pools at Bath and Manchester which form part of the UK Sports Institute (UKSI).

  22.  The Government is working closely with Sport England to ensure that opportunities for revitalising facilities is not lost. The Government wants to encourage local authorities to look at new and innovative ways of modernising and rebuilding swimming facilities. DCMs are currently supporting six schemes under the Private Finance Initiative which include community public swimming facilities: Sefton, Uttlesford, Amber Valley, Brekland (three pool refurbishments), Lewisham and Penwith. There are two further projects at the pre-bid stage.


  23.  The statutory list of buildings is a register recording the best of our buildings. A wide variety of structures are listed but all are judged to be of special architectural or historic interest—the only criteria on which a decision can be based—with the emphasis on national significance. In determining special interest, age and rarity are important considerations and among more recent buildings (especially post-1914), much greater selection is needed to identify the best examples of particular building types.

  24.  So far, around 60 public swimming pools have been judged to meet the criteria, and are included on the list. If there are proposals to alter, extend or demolish any of these buildings, listed building consent must be obtained in addition to any planning permission needed.

  25.  Grants for repairs to listed buildings of outstanding interest may be available from English Heritage. If a listed property is falling badly into disrepair, the local authority has powers to carry out urgent work to unoccupied buildings and can serve a repairs notice on the owners of any neglected property. If the owner fails to comply, the Council can compulsorily acquire the property.


  26.  Swimming is a priority Olympic sport and, as such, is supported by the Government through the provision of both Lottery and Exchequer funding via the Sports Councils. The level of funding relates to the World Class Business Plan submitted by the governing body to the Sports Councils and the performance results of elite swimmers at major championships. Funding provided by Government to swimming is considerable and consists of the following elements:

    —  from 1997 until September 2000 some £11.2 million has been spent on swimming under the World Class Performance, Potential and Start Programmes;

    —  £8.5 million has been committed from October 2000 until March 2005 under the same programmes;

    —  £3.4 million has been committed under the Disability World Class Performance and Potential Programmes;

    —  £2.7 million has been committed to diving under the World Class Performance, Potential and Start Programmes;

    —  Exchequer funding to swimming of £0.5 million is being provided this year by UK Sport and Sport England.

  27.  As well as supporting the training and development of elite athletes on the programme, Lottery and Exchequer funding has enabled the appointment of three Performance Directors, four diving coaches, five swimming coaches, two disabled swimming coaches and has given grants to a number of regional centres where athletes on Start and Potential Programmes are based. Swimming and diving will also have access to the state of the art sports medicine and sports science services that will be delivered by the UKSI when it is fully operational at the end of 2002.

  28.  Prior to Sydney, swimming was classified as a priority one sport by UK Sport for the purposes of funding. Following the disappointing results at the 2000 Olympics where Britain failed to win a medal, swimming became a priority two sport and its level of funding was cut.

  The swimming events at Sydney proved to the highest standard of competition ever in a major swimming championship event with a record 15 world records being broken and new Olympic marks being set in nearly every event.

  29.  Following the Games the governing body appointed a new Australian Performance Director, Bill Sweetenham, who has made radical structural changes to British swimming. In July 2001 Britain competed in the World Championships in Fukuoma Japan and won seven medals including their first Gold since 1975. In addition, British swimmers have broken four world records so far this year with the European Short Course Championships still to take place in Antwerp in December.


  30.  Coaches play a key role in motivating and equipping others to succeed. That applies to the school playground, the local playing fields as well as at major international events. To build for success, therefore, the Government recognises that there is a need to develop and support coaches. We also need to encourage more people to enter the profession at all levels and to create a more robust coaching structure—a structure that starts at the grass roots level and provides a clear pathway all the way up to the elite.

  31.  It is with this in mind that the Government has established a Coaching Task Force. The Task Force is drawn from a variety of organisations involved with sport and coach education. It has a remit to:

    —  review the structures and provision of coach education;

    —  conduct an international benchmarking exercise; and

    —  develop proposals on how to improve the structure of coaching as a profession.

  32.  The group will report their findings to Ministers next March. The recommendations are likely to be relevant to a wide range of sports, including swimming.

November 2001

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 15 January 2002