MORE than 50,000 Scottish children are benefitting from potentially lifesaving swimming lessons during the first six months of a partnership between Scottish Water and Scottish Swimming.
Both are thrilled with the response to the innovative Learn to Swim programme, part of Scottish Swimming’s National Framework for Swimming in Scotland which has already been adopted by more than 17 Leisure Trusts and Local Authorities covering 100 pools across the country. The aim of the National Framework is to provide quality environments for children to learn to swim.
The programme could not be delivered effectively without the support and commitment of Local Authority, Leisure Trust and local Learn to Swim partners, many of whom have already seen their programmes grow and are reporting an increase in the quality of lessons and provision through the adoption of the National Learn to Swim Framework.
Olympic pool hero Duncan Scott agreed to be the ambassador of the three-year partnership, which it is hoped will eventually reach more than 100,000 youngsters across the country, also inspiring the next generation of competitive swimmers.
Earlier this year Scottish Water agreed to partner with the programme for three years, essential backing that will allow it to reach every corner of Scotland. Already the Learn to Swim Framework has been adopted across Scotland and reaches as far north as the Shetland Islands and as far south as Dumfries and Galloway. It also stretches to Aberdeen in the east and to the Western Isles.
Brian Lironi, Director of External Communications with Scottish Water, said: “This is a brilliant scheme for us to be involved with in so many ways and we’re delighted it is off to such an excellent start.
“First and foremost, we’re thrilled that so many children are learning how to swim and that this will help give them the confidence and skills to be safer in the water, whether at their local swimming pool, at the beach on holiday or just if they are out and about around Scotland’s miles of coastline, rivers and lochs.
“Beyond that, it’s a great way to show how water is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, from keeping hydrated with the clear, fresh drinking water at your taps, to taking the plunge in your local pool as the ideal form of exercise.”
The Learn to Swim Framework is aimed at youngsters from birth to 11-years-old and provides consistently high-quality teaching at least once a week and which progresses through a series of lessons and levels over a number of years.
Since helping to officially launch the programme, double Olympic silver medallist Duncan Scott has been enthusiastically championing the cause. Now in training for the Commonwealth Games in Australia in 2018, he is delighted with the results so far.
Duncan, 20, who also has World Championship and European Championship gold medals, added: “Wow. To have reached 50,000 kids already is simply brilliant. This is a great start and long may it continue.
“Getting children into the pool so that they can have fun while learning how to stay safe is the number one priority. But I know from my own experience that loads of those children will be interested in taking it further.
“Whether they simply become regulars at the pool with their friends or whether they go onto enjoy competitive club swimming, nothing but good things can come from encouraging more and more children – and hopefully their families – into the water.
“While there’s a lot of international swimming talent in Scotland at the moment, if we want to keep winning medals on the global stage, then this is one vital element in achieving that. We need a pipeline of talent for the future.”
Scottish Swimming, the national governing body for a number of aquatic disciplines, has the vision of eventually ensuring everyone in the country can swim. Extensive evidence shows that, as well as being a superb form of exercise for all age groups, swimming can also spur children on to attainment in other areas of life.
The main success of the Learn to Swim Framework is the collaboration between local partners and Scottish Swimming. Local Authorities and Leisure Trusts have embraced the ethos of the programme, which aims to create more opportunity for children to learn to swim in a quality environment.
Forbes Dunlop, CEO of Scottish Swimming, said: “We have got off to a flying start and we’re grateful for the support of Scottish Water and the local learn to swim providers who have signed up to adopt the framework.
“There is no downside to getting more and more children learning to swim. It’s good for health, it helps promote safety, it encourages children to higher attainment in their schoolwork and other areas of their lives and it’s good for families and communities.”
One Local Authority Leisure Trust is already seeing a remarkable turnaround since adopting the Learn to Swim Framework.
North Lanarkshire Leisure has seen the number of youngsters learning to swim increase from 3200 in 2015 to 5500 in 2017, an increase of 72%. That has been achieved without increasing pool time, while effective planning has seen class sizes drop, which in turn has also improved skill development among children. There have also been reported improvements in transition of the keenest participants to club swimming.
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