Plymouth’s top swimming and diving stars are showing their support for a new scheme that will ensure every child in the city has the opportunity to learn to swim.
The Second Chance to Swim scheme is Plymouth City Council’s pledge to ensure that any child who didn’t learn to swim during their primary school intensive swimming programme gets another opportunity to learn this essential life skill whilst still at primary school.
Currently all children between the ages of seven and 11 receive a course of swimming lessons but around 40 per cent still can’t swim 25 metres to the nationally recognised level having done the course. Plymouth’s school swimming programme was audited by the amateur Swimming Association in 2014 and found to be ‘exemplary’.
Councillor Sue McDonald, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Public Health said: “I’m delighted that, as Britain’s Ocean City, we can now make sure every child has another chance to learn to swim in Plymouth.
“Learning to swim is an essential life skill and is important for both safety and health reasons. We are surrounded by water so the ability to swim out of danger can be a life saver. Of course having fun at your local pool is also just as important for health, fitness and confidence. Nationally more than half of 11-year-olds leave primary school not being able to swim so Plymouth is already leading the way.”
Some of Plymouth Leander’s elite swimmers got behind the scheme during a training session at Plymouth Life Centre.
Olympic Gold medallist Rūta Meilutytė said: “As Plymouth is next to the sea being able to swim is really important, not only is it a great life skill it’s also brilliant fun. I learnt to swim when I was seven and have enjoyed swimming ever since. I’d really encourage anyone who isn’t confident to give swimming another try.”
Commonwealth Games medallist and 2012 Olympian Antony James said:” Swimming is a great sport for social interaction and for making new friends. It’s also a really important life skill and is great fun.”
Commonwealth gold medalist Ben Proud said: “I spent most of childhood swimming and it was such fun. Swimming is great and anyone can learn to do it, if you just it try.”
Fresh from claiming gold in the women’s 10-metre syncro at the British Championships, hosted at the Plymouth life centre last month, Tonia Couch and Sara Barrow also got behind the second chance to swim pledge. Tonia said: “Swimming is a great family activity and it keeps you fit. I learnt to swim as soon as I could pretty much walk and I would encourage anyone who has not yet learnt to give it a go!”
Sarah agreed and said: “Not only is swimming fun it also keeps you fit and is an essential life skill. Loads of people always ask me if they could learn to dive and I always remind them before you can dive you have to be a pretty confident swimmer.”
Three times one metre springboard British diving champion Rhea Gayle added: “Swimming is a really essential life skill that encourages fitness and confidence. When I first started swimming I wasn’t very confident in deep water but the more I learnt the better I got.”
The Second Chance to Swim scheme is being organised by the Council in partnership with Everyone Active, who operate the Council’s leisure facilities, Active Devon, Plymouth School Sports Partnership and the Amateur Swimming Association.
In the last two years Plymouth has ensured that every primary school is engaged in the school swimming programme. The progress of every child in Plymouth who takes part in the schools’ nationally accredited swimming programme is being rigorously monitored to ensure that those children who would best benefit from a ‘second chance offer’ get the opportunity.
It means any child who has not reached the national attainment target can receive the top-up swimming lessons. In addition the Council is working with children’s centres and early years’ providers to get children off the starting blocks even sooner to improve their water confidence.
The support the Council is offering is in the form of vouchers to put against lessons and swimming sessions at several locations including the Plymouth Life Centre and also free equipment including floatation aids for very young learners.