Speedo Swim United launches program to tackle shocking decline in children learning to swim

Speedo Swim United together with Active Black Country and swim stars, Adam Peaty, Ellie Simmonds and Michael Gunning are launching a new programme, bringing pop-up pools to schools in the UK. Launching on 26th April 2023, 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 4-month period in conjunction with Speedo Swim United’s 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 4 hours of swimming per week over a 4-month period. Qualified lifeguards, and swimming teachers will work with school pupils – for 5.5 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 1 in 3 (28%) children are now leaving school unable to swim, up from 1 in 4 (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.

Kirsty Saddler, VP Global Brand Marketing at Speedo, said: “Water is the very essence of the Speedo brand and we believe everyone should have access to swimming. Not only for the joy and opportunity it brings but, more importantly, for the lifesaving skill that it is.

“This critical programme will see thousands of children water safe within a matter of months. We hope it will serve as a tried and tested blueprint for the UK Government, providing a cost-effective solution to an issue that poses a risk to life for so many children in the UK.”

Ian Carey, CEO of Active Black Country, said: “Inspiring a love and an ability to swim at an early age is critical in tackling the low levels of swimming attainment in our region, as well as other areas of the UK. By working with Speedo Swim United and its partners we hope to provide children in our communities the skill-sets they need to develop a positive, life-long affinity with the water.”

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 petition*.


The Speedo Swim United petition calls on the UK government to affect real change by:

1. Ofsted – Ring-fencing funding provided to schools for swimming lessons and including this as part of Ofsted inspections.
2. Pools/Energy Crisis – Providing urgent support for swimming pool operators to remain open amid rising energy costs and to enable them to increase pool time for swimming lessons and train new teachers.
3. Community Engagement – Investing in community engagement to reach the community groups who may face cultural and systemic barriers to swimming.

Research from Swim England shows that:

● Only 42% of school children in the most deprived areas of the country can swim*

● 95% of Black adults and 80% of Black children in England do not swim**

● 93% of Asian adults and 78% of Asian children in England do not swim**

● More than half a million children from ethnic minority communities have missed out on swimming due to the pandemic

It is estimated that more than half a million children from ethnic minority communities have missed out on swimming lessons due to the Covid-19 pandemic, further highlighting the stark inequalities that the campaign exists to address.

Further details available via Sport England’s latest Active Lives Children and Young People report- available here.

The announcement of the programme will see pop-up pools located at schools within Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton, the Black Country being amongst the areas of the UK worst effected by poor swimming (Further insights downloadable here).

With more than half of Black Country residents living in the top twenty percent of areas of deprivation, the health of people across the region is largely negatively driven by socio-economic status. Schools in these deprived areas are considerably more likely to have lower 25m attainment levels than those in other parts of the Black Country.

28% of primary school children are unable to swim, and this could increase to 60% of children leaving school in 2025, a figure that has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Phase one of the Speedo Swim United programme engaged 35 schools and 3,000 children across London to reignite children’s interest in swimming through activity packs. Over 1,000 intensive two- week swim courses are also running through the schools, to help those children who need it the most build much needed confidence and skills in and around the water. The programme is now set to engage a further 8 schools in the West Midlands region.

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