National swimming award for Sheffield Primary School

Malcolm Johnson, Lead of Swimming Strategy at St Catherine's Catholic Primary School
Malcolm Johnson, Lead of Swimming Strategy at St Catherine's Catholic Primary School

A primary school in Sheffield have received a national award in recognition of their hard work and dedication in providing their pupils with a focused swimming programme.

St Catherine’s Catholic Primary School in Pitsmoor were crowned Primary School of the Year 2018 at the Swim England National awards, held in Birmingham University’s Great Hall last weekend. 

The Swim England National Awards

The Swim England National Awards

The school achieved the accolade for their work in giving children the best swimming provision possible, developing early water confidence in pupils by starting lessons in year one, and then carrying this through to year four. 

Fiona Rigby, Headteacher of St Catherine's for 20 years, said: “We want our kids to have that life skill and we’ve quietly just got on with it every year improving our provision and to achieve that recognition is great.”

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Figures showed that, in the last Academic Year, 97 per cent of year four students at St Catherine’s had achieved the National Curriculum Standard, compared to 58 per cent in Sheffield as a whole, and 68 per cent nationally.

Malcom collecting the award on behalf of St Catherine's

Malcom collecting the award on behalf of St Catherine's

This meant that nearly all those students at St Catherine’s could swim competently, confidently and proficiently over a distance of at least 25 metres.

They also saw great results for both year five, in which 100 per cent of pupils reached the national standard, and 97 per cent in year six. 

And, when children had not achieved the standard by year four, Malcolm Johnson, Lead of Swimming Strategy at St Catherine’s Primary, and other school staff intervened with extra classes to ensure they were all capable.

Each year the school are asked to submit their swimming attainment levels, due to ruling by the Department of Education and Swim England.

So, it came as a shock to find they had won the award for their swimming provision. 

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The vast majority of Primary Schools across England are given an allocation of school swimming for Key Stage 2, but St Catherine’s have put in extra funding to increase their allocation.

Fiona said: “I just happened to go swimming one week with the year six and about three quarters of them were in arm bands and in a ten week swimming allocation they were not going to learn to swim.

“So, we took a different view. We had to continue with the year six swimming because for the kids coming through school that was going to be their only opportunity, but we double funded them and started to offer swimming at year one and year two, for a small contribution of £1 a week.

“We carried on at Key Stage 2, but we had those year ones and year twos coming through. We then decided to move the year six swimming down so it met in the middle.”

Malcolm Johnson, from St Catherine’s Primary said: “We’ve had some amazing achievements. We had a lad who a couple of years ago couldn’t swim and now went into a swimming gala for us so it’s brilliant to see that.”

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The primary also run an after school club for those showing potential and with an interest in swimming so they can train on a weekly basis.

“Last year we came sixth, but out of the team there were about seven of them who had never entered a gala before,” Malcolm said. “So it was their complete first year and we did amazing. We’ve actually got a couple within the squad who have been talent spotted for the city of Sheffield so we’ve created another pathway which not many schools actually do.”

Youngsters with special educational needs have also seen an improved rate in reaching national curriculum standard.

Malcolm added: “I think this award is down to our special educational needs provision we have done this year with school swimming and the fact we give them so much opportunity. We also keep looking at how we delivery swimming with our local council and have we can improve”