‘If we save one life it’ll be worth it’

The South Yorkshire Navigation Canal in which Matthew Cartwright drowned.
The South Yorkshire Navigation Canal in which Matthew Cartwright drowned.

Grandparents of drowned boy make heartfelt plea to Number 10 over school swimming campaign

The grieving grandparents of tragic Matthew Cartwright have taken a heartfelt video plea for school swimming lessons to the heart of the Government.

Matthew, eight, of Windhill Terrace, Mexborough, fell into the canal at Swinton and drowned in August last year.

Matthew, who died despite desperate efforts to save him, was unable to swim.

Kevin and Wendy Cartwright of Conisbrough agreed to make the video as part of a national campaign to persuade the Government to force schools to take the subject more seriously.

They agreed to take part in the Save School Swimming Save Lives campaign sponsored by the National Swimming Associaton and cereal makers Kellogs even though it was a heartrending experience for them.

Mr Cartwright, 58, told the Times he wanted the age at which children were taught to swim lowered to five, so they had lessons in their first year at primary school.

He said: “Matthew never learned to swim. He was eight years old. It is compulsory for kids to learn to swim at school from age nine, but I think it should be from seven to eight.”

“Let’s get them to learn to swim early. We can’t bring Matthew back, nothing can. But if we can save just one young life it will be worth it.

“I don’t want anyone else to go through what our family has gone through. Making the video was is heartbreaking. Matthew’s mum and dad are backing us on this”.

Their online plea was shown to Education Minister Michael Gove and other parliamentarians in Westminster, earlier this month.

Mr Cartwright told the Times: “Mr Gove said he was backing the campaign . He said he was amazed about the amount of children who can’t swim after leaving school”.

The report calls for every child in the UK to have the opportunity to learn to swim in primary school.

It quotes figures from the National Water Safety Forum which shows that more than 400 people drown each year in the UK and that drowning is the third most common cause of accidental death in children.

The report states: “Each child should be safe in and around water, and a key element of this is being able to swim a minimum of 25m unaided. We call on central and local government to show their commitment to school swimming by reiterating this expectation to schools.”

It revealed that around 200,000 children will leave primary school this summer unable to swim, amounting to an astonishing two-million non-swimmers over the next ten years.

Of those children unable to swim, nearly 40% have never been offered school swimming lessons despite it being a statutory element of the National Curriculum.

A DfE spokesperson said: “Swimming is a compulsory part of the National Curriculum, and all primary schools have a duty to provide swimming lessons for their pupils.

“By the end of primary school, pupils must be taught to swim 25m unaided using recognised strokes on their front and back and use a range of personal survival skills.

“We would expect that schools would take the needs of their children into account in making all decisions and are best placed to decide when they begin these lessons.”

We asked Doncaster and Rothrham councils for their response to the campaign but neither had replied when we went to press.

Wentworth and dearne MP John Healey said he was supporting the campaign: He said: “Swimming is not just a life skill, it’s a life-saving skill.

“I applaud all our primary schools that make sure children have the chance to swim but I appreciate it can be costly, and the Government could do much more to help make sure swimming lessons can be open to all.”

The video can be seen at: http://www.swimming.org/asa/