Private schools told to open their swimming pools to state pupils

A new drive to encourage private schools to share their swimming pools is being launched by the government amid concerns about the number of children who emerge from primary school unable to swim. The Guardian reports.

This weekend the education secretary, Damian Hinds, who has three young children, called on private schools to open up their pools to state pupils in their area.

Fewer than half of all British children are able to swim 25 metres by the time they reach the age of 11. Schools will get a share of a £320m fund to help boost swimming lessons, he said.

The issue is likely to reopen the debate on whether private schools’ ability to claim charitable status should be predicated on their willingness to share their sports facilities with state school pupils.

This year’s figures from the Independent Schools Council, which represents 1,326 private schools in the UK, show that of 603 of its member schools that have pools, 304 already share them in some way with state school pupils.

Meanwhile, 72% of primary schools use public pools for swimming lessons, while 15% use their own pool and 10% use another private facility.

The Charity Commission updated its guidance in 2015 to encourage independent schools to report how they are opening up access to their sports and arts facilities, but stopped short of requiring that they do so to keep their charitable status.

Julie Robinson, general secretary of the ISC said “Headteachers who have opened up their facilities tell us it’s a win-win for the schools and the community,” said Charles Johnston, director of property for Sport England, a public body under the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. “It allows facilities to be used at times when otherwise they’d be empty.”

Read more Private schools told to open their swimming pools to state pupils

Should private schools be made to share their facilities? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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