Crack down on childhood obesity with Swimming!

Private schools have been told to open up their swimming pools to local primaries as part of a new Government plan to boost swimming lessons.

It comes amid concern about levels of child obesity, with more than 22,000  dangerously obese children leaving primary school this year.

Almost half of pupils are unable to swim the required 25 metres by the time they leave primary school, even though swimming lessons are a compulsory part of the national curriculum.

The Education Secretary, in partnership with the Independent Schools Council (ISC), is urging private schools to help children from neighbouring state primaries learn to swim by allowing them to use their sports facilities.

Headteachers should also encourage a “culture of healthy competition”, Damian Hinds said, after a Government survey from earlier this year showed that almost half of all state primaries offer no competitive sports events such as a school sports day.

72 per cent of primary schools use public facilities for their swimming, while a quarter use their own pool or another school’s pool.

Just over half of private schools already share their facilities with other schools, as well as some offering coaches to local primary schools.

Mr Hinds said: “As a parent I want my children to enjoy swimming as part of an active lifestyle, and as Education Secretary I want to make sure our children grow up safe and water confident.

“Many independent schools are already doing this but others can and must do more to help every child in their community.

“And as these partnerships develop, I hope to see some healthy competition between and within schools so that children can not only have the health benefit of swimming, but the team spirit and personal development that comes from competitive sport.”

The number of 10 and 11-year-olds classed as severely obese, the most overweight scale, in the final year of primary school is also nearly double that of those in reception.

More than 22,000 out of 556,000 of children in Year 6 are classed as severely obese, a significant increase on the 15,000 four and five-year-olds in the category.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which obtained the figures earlier this year, said this showed children were gaining weight at a drastic rate as they went through school.