Has the pandemic strengthened the argument for making swimming lessons a statutory requirement in Scottish primary schools?
Unlike in England, swimming lessons are not a compulsory part of the curriculum in Scotland. Instead, in-school lesson provision varies council-to-council.
Instead, children can get lessons through local authority Learn to Swim programmes or privately.
But with hundreds of children across Tayside and Fife on waiting lists and a shortage of swimming instructors leading to timetables being cut, is there an argument for introducing lessons into the primary school curriculum?
We looked at the situation in Tayside and Fife and the challenges facing the local authority programmes.
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In Dundee waiting lists for school age swimming lessons run by Leisure and Culture Dundee (LACD) are are currently full.
The programme also faces a shortage of swimming instructors so has reduced capacity.
A spokesperson for LACD said: “The plan to return to a more normal Learn to Swim programme will continue to have the safety of participants, staff, parents and carers at the forefront of any changes.
“We are working with restricted availability in school facilities to bring back school aged swimming lessons and plans are in place to return when safe to do so. This will include the return of lessons for children between 5 and 7 years old.
“The impact of swimming teachers leaving over the lockdown period and the delayed return to Dundee of students with the required qualifications means that the programme will likely run at a 15% reduction in capacity in school facilities until after October.
“In addition to this reduction in staffing levels, there is a two year backlog of children transitioning to school age lessons from pre-school due to lockdown, this equates to approximately 300 children.
“It is the intention of the Learn to Swim programme to offer every child on this list a space once staffing levels are at the required level.”
Youngsters in Angus are also facing waiting lists to get to onto the Learn to Swim programme, run by ANGUSalive.
Similar to Dundee, a combination of Covid restrictions and a shortage of swimming instructors in the region has impacted lesson timetables.
Gail Mallarkey, ANGUSalive children and families physical activity lead, said: “There are waiting lists in all five of our centres, there are currently some spaces which are being filled both from children who were in lessons pre-Covid who had not returned, and from the waiting lists.
“We are currently in the situation where we have far fewer swimming teachers than before Covid, therefore we are running two swim teacher courses in Angus this year, and once we have additional teachers trained we will be able to add more lessons to the timetables, to take more swimmers off of the waiting lists.”
Waiting lists to the Learn to Swim programme delivered by Fife Sports and Leisure Trust have been “severely affected” by the Covid lockdown and restrictions, a spokeswoman for the trust said.
The programme relies on participants moving through stages, however this was not possible from March 2020 because leisure centres were either closed or restrictions were in place.
As of September 1, there were 6,684 learners in the programme which will be shared with the teams across the region.
Perth and Kinross
Live Active, which runs the Learn to Swim programme in the Perth and Kinross region, states on its website it is “dealing with a huge number of enquiries regarding swimming lessons“.
This has been hampered by the closure of the Perth Leisure Pool since March 2020 due to pandemic restrictions and then flooding in August last year.
The pool is now set to re-open on Monday October 11.