The UK government has launched an initiative to encourage private schools to share their swimming pools with state pupils in their area, in a bid to improve the chances of all children learning to swim.
At present, fewer than half of British children are able to swim 25 metres by the time they leave primary school. The education secretary, Damian Hinds, said he is determined to “make sure our children grow up safe and water confident”.
Of 1,326 private schools in the UK, 603 have pools and 304 of them already share them in some way with state school pupils (figures from the Independent Schools Council). Hinds acknowledged that “Many independent schools are already doing this, but others can and must do more to help every child in their community.” Currently, 72% of primary schools use public pools for their swimming lessons; 15% have their own pool and just 10% use a ‘private facility’.
The Department for Education has not proposed any measures to compel private schools to share their swimming pools, but the issue is likely to reignite the debate on whether private schools should be allowed to claim charitable status if they are unwilling to share their sports facilities with state school pupils.
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