without swimming lessons the school plunges into inequalities – Liberation

Closing swimming pools will prevent many students from learning to swim, while drowning kills a thousand people every year.

The verdict has just been handed down. The swimming pool of Epinay-sur-Seine (Seine-Saint-Denis) will not reopen on Monday, after the annual closure for maintenance, as was however planned. The company Vert Marine, which manages the infrastructure under the delegation of the public service, made the decision to close the property because it could no longer afford the increases in energy prices, as in several dozen municipalities. “In terms of inequality it is deeply unfair», denounces Romain Trompeau, EPS professor in an Epinay college, also a member of the departmental office of Snep-FSU, union of teachers of his field. In its establishment, classified REP (Priority Education Network), “we have a percentage of non-swimmers of almost 70%, he is alarmed. They sometimes get stuck on the edge, there is a lot of individual psychological work to do.” In the poorest department, but also the youngest in France, almost one in two children in the sixth grade arrives without being able to swim.

There’s nothing superficial about worrying about swimming pools closing. “It’s a matter of public health and safety”, recalls Coralie Benech, co-secretary general of Snep-FSU. Drowning, which kills 1,000 people every year, is the leading cause of death in everyday life among people under the age of 25. And the consequences of the closures, “This is most visible in REP, because the students don’t have swimming lessons outside. In other circles they went to the pool all summer, sometimes even in their garden.” points out Marie-Mélanie Dumas, teacher at a primary school in Limoges classified REP, who had to cancel the school bus on Tuesday for the first pool session of the year.

A single basin for multiple cities

According to a survey by the National Institute of Youth and Popular Education published last year, 94% of students can swim. But only 54% of the children of inactive and 61% of the children of unskilled workers are good swimmers, compared to 86% of the children of executives. The former are six to seven times more likely (13 and 15%, respectively) than the latter (2%) to be unable to swim.

REP or not, French students don’t have enough infrastructure. “There are 1,000 swimming pools missing to meet the needs”, evaluates Benoît Hubert, co-secretary general of Snep-FSU. Different schools, colleges and high schools, sometimes from different cities, have to share the same pool, on inevitably limited time slots, as school children are not the only ones to benefit from the pools. “In certain municipalities we tear up the slots within five minutes”, notes Coralie Benech. In some areas, especially in rural areas, students can spend their entire school education without taking advantage of swimming lessons in the school environment.

Elsewhere, “At best, we manage to do ten 45-minute sessions in sixth, fifth or even fourth place. It’s not enough, says Benoît Hubert. We teach non-swimmers to save themselves, but they don’t reach the level we hope for.” Students are expected to complete their Certificate of Safe Swimming (ASNS) in CM1, CM2, or sixth. An assessment that verifies that the child knows how to swim underwater without touching an obstacle, move from prone to dorsal position, or stand still before moving again.

Energy consumption

Today, all eyes are on communities that have decided to entrust the management of their swimming pools to companies. “Private companies decide themselves to close a public service”, criticizes Emmanuelle Bonnet Oulaldj, co-chair of the Sports and Gymnastics Federation of Labour. “We need to review the model of public service delegations. It’s like a town hall saying, ‘I’m closing a school because I don’t have the resources’”, in abundance Gilles Sezionale, president of the French Swimming Federation. Reminding us that the energy consumption of swimming pools will remain an issue until major renovation is started: “We have a very outdated park. The plan of 1,000 swimming pools [qui consistait à doter rapidement le pays d’infrastructures afin de former des nageurs, en 1969, ndlr] date of General de Gaulle.

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