Funding for P5s to learn to swim is reintroduced

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North Lanarkshire Council will reintroduce central funding all P5 pupils to learn to swim after a successful motion by the SNP Group.

Airdrie South councillor Paul Di Mascio called on the council to recognise the importance of children learning basic life skills and water safety.

The council was also asked to acknowledge that swimming is on the English school curriculum and that the sport’s governing body Scottish Swimming is currently in talks with the Scottish Government to make similar arrangements here.

Currently schools are instructed to find the money for swimming lessons instead of it being provided through core funding, with only 65 doing so compared to 125 last year.

Councillor Di Mascio said: “Funding swimming lessons for all P5 pupils is huge and the importance of maintaining this cannot be ignored.

“North Lanarkshire has many areas of deprivation; we have historically had cases of P5 children who have had little or no exposure to the water, and these children are at a disadvantage in terms of their health and their personal safety, right now and as adults.”

Council leader Jim Logue proposed an amendment, which called for the council to await the outcome of the government negotiations while also recognising the increasing pressure on councils to maintain facilities.

North Lanarkshire Leisure, which operates pools and other facilities on behalf of the council, recently announced it was reducing opening hours of Kilsyth Swimming Pool and the John Smith Pool in Airdrie.

Councillor Logue also argued that children should be given more opportunities to choose sports which appealed to them, rather than swimming being compulsory.

The potential lifesaving aspect of knowing how to swim,  rather than promotion of the sport, was the basis for many councillors’ decision to back the motion.

Cumbernauld East councillor Claire Barclay said: “I don’t know of anyone who has died because they did not know how to play netball.

“Swimming is also about saving lives and that is what is most important.”

The Conservative group backed the SNP’s motion which passed by 35 votes to 30.