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 fallen. The Epinay-sur-Seine swimming pool (Seine-Saint-Denis) will not reopen on Monday, after its annual closure for maintenance, as was however planned. The Vert Marine company, which manages the infrastructure under public service delegation, took the decision to close the premises on the grounds that it could no longer afford the energy price increases, as it did in several dozen municipalities. “In terms of inequality, it’s deeply unfair», denounces Romain Trompeau, professor of EPS in a college of Epinay, also member of the departmental office of Snep-FSU, union of teachers of his discipline. In his establishment, classified REP (Priority Education Network), “we have a rate of non-swimmers of almost 70%, he is alarmed. They sometimes remain clinging to the edge, there is a lot of individual psychological work to be done”. In the poorest department but also the youngest in France, nearly one child in two arrives in sixth grade without knowing how to swim.

There is nothing superficial about worrying about the closing of swimming pools. “It’s a public health and safety issue,” recalls Coralie Benech, co-secretary general of Snep-FSU. Drowning, which kills a thousand people each year, is the leading cause of accidental death in everyday life among people under 25 years old. And the consequences of the closures, “It’s in REP that it will be seen the most, because the students don’t have swimming lessons outside. In other circles, they went to the swimming pool all summer, they even sometimes have some in their garden”, points out Marie-Mélanie Dumas, teacher in an elementary school in Limoges classified REP, who had to cancel the school bus on Tuesday for the first swimming pool session of the year.

A single basin for several cities

According to a study by the National Institute of Youth and Popular Education published last year, 94% of college students can swim. But only 54% of the children of the inactive and 61% of the children of unskilled workers are good swimmers, against 86% of the children of executives. The former are six to seven times more likely (13 and 15% respectively) than the latter (2%) to not know how to swim.

REP or not, French students do not have enough infrastructure. “There are 1,000 swimming pools missing to cover the needs”, evaluates Benoît Hubert, co-secretary general of Snep-FSU. Several schools, colleges and high schools, sometimes from several cities, must share the same pool, on inevitably restricted time slots since schoolchildren are not the only ones to benefit from the swimming pools. “We tear up the slots to within five minutes in certain municipalities”, notes Coralie Benech. In some areas, particularly rural ones, students can spend their entire schooling without benefiting from swimming lessons in the school setting.

Somewhere else, “In the best of cases, we manage to do ten 45-minute sessions in sixth, fifth or even fourth. It’s not sufficient, believes Benoît Hubert. We teach non-swimmers to save themselves, but they don’t reach the level we might hope for”. Students are supposed to obtain 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 the prone position to the dorsal position or stand still before moving again.

Energy expenditure

Today, all eyes are on communities that have decided to entrust the management of their swimming pools to companies. “Private companies decide on their own to cut off a public service”, criticizes Emmanuelle Bonnet Oulaldj, co-president of the Sports and Gymnastics Federation of Labor. “We must review the model of public service delegations. It’s as if a town hall were saying ‘I’m closing a school because I don’t have the means’”, abounds Gilles Sezionale, president of the French Swimming Federation. Which reminds us that the energy expenditure of swimming pools will remain a problem until a vast renovation operation is launched: “We have a very aging 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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