On 26 April, Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) CEO, Robert Gofton, attended the launch of Speedo Swim United and Active Black Country’s new programme which looks to bring pop-up pools to schools in the UK.

The launch follows new statistics highlighting nearly one in three children leave primary school unable to swim in the UK.

Swim stars, Adam Peaty, Ellie Simmonds and Michael Gunning also attended the launch. The new programme will be implemented in regions of the country worst effected by low swimming attainment, an issue that has been further compounded by the ongoing energy crisis. The initiative will provide an intervention to the issue, whilst also creating pathways back to local leisure centres.

The launch of Speedo Swim United’s pop-up pool programme follows news that an estimated 2 million children left primary school unable to swim in 2022. Running over a four month period in conjunction with Speedo Swim United’s change.org petition*, the new initiative will see pop-up pools located at schools within the Black Country; an area representing one of worst effected regions of the UK.

The programme, delivered in partnership with Aspire Active Education Group, aims to provide up to 1000 pupils with an additional four hours of swimming per week over a four month period. Qualified lifeguards, and swimming teachers will work with school pupils - for five and a half hours Monday to Friday during term time - to ensure they understand how to self-rescue in water and with the aim of teaching each child to swim at least 25 metres.

The announcement of the programme follows recent statistics from Sport England, confirming almost one in three (28%) children are now leaving school unable to swim, up from one in four (25%) in 2022*. Without immediate intervention statistics appear set to worsen in light of rising energy costs; with over 100 UK pools predicted to close or reduce service by summer 2023.  

Alongside the pop-up pools, the programme partners will work with the local communities to understand the barriers to swimming facing local families and aim to help address these issues. The programme is committed to ensuring children and their families continue their swimming journey beyond the end of the project, and programme partners will subsequently be working closely with each Local Authority in the Black Country to create clear pathways to local swimming pools.

In 2022 Speedo Swim United successfully piloted a scheme in London during which, 1,250 children learned to be water safe and swim at least 25m via two-week intensive swimming lessons. The pilot ran as a direct response to learnings on the children most at risk from not being able to swim*  Speedo Swim United now aims to go a step further by creating a blueprint for the UK Government, demonstrating just how many children can become water safe within a matter of months by investing in the areas that need them most.

The Speedo Swim United pop-up pool programme is an intervention to help address what has become a crisis and risk of life to children. Alongside the programme the initiative seeks to gather further support for the Speedo Swim United Change.org petition.

Robert Gofton attended on behalf of the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) to show the charity’s absolute commitment to the programme to ensure that all children have the opportunity to enjoy water safely.

Robert said, “I was delighted to attend and support the official launch of the Black Country Pop-Up Pool Programme. Our team of experts at Royal Life Saving Society UK have supported this by sharing our technical knowledge on water safety, lifeguarding and lifesaving.

“This programme is part of a series of interventions that supports the ambition that every child leaves primary school able to meet the national curriculum swimming requirements. It is supported by the Speedo Swim United campaign, a purpose-led programme with the sole mission of tackling the barriers to swimming faced by many families in the UK, whether these be; cultural, financial or systemic.

“It was fabulous to see positive and direct action to help grow swimming across all our communities. We all know swimming is a life skill, a sport, a career pathway, an economic driver, a social, health and well-being activity and much more.

“We should be extremely proud of swimming and the swimming pool sector and what it does for our nation, but there is still a huge amount we need to do to improve and widen participation.

“Events like today demonstrate that we need to get out of the board rooms, have less chat, more effort and turn our frustrations into positive action. These are the things that actually get everyone into a pool and begin their journey to swimming. We need more of this!”