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Olympians bring swimming to Preston

Olympians, Steve Parry and Melanie Marshall, yesterday joined a group of lucky school children to launch the British Gas Pools 4 Schools initiative at Ashton Community Science College in Preston. 

Marshall, who won six medals at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, and Parry, who won bronze at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, joined the children in a special assembly followed by a world class demonstration in the pool. 

The scheme, which is supported by British Gas and the Amateur Swimming Association, brings an innovative portable pool to the area to teach hundreds of local children to swim for free and recognises the cultural barriers to increasing community participation through new opportunities in the pool. 

For many children who take part in the lessons, this will be their first opportunity to learn this vital life saving skill, despite swimming being a statutory National Curriculum subject. 

Over 220 children have been taught to swim through the British Gas Pools 4 Schools programme in Preston so far, with results showing that 95% are now able to swim 25m which is the key stage 2 attainment.

Olympian Melanie Marshall is urging parents to ensure get their children swimming and said:

I have heard so many great things and it has been a pleasure to be here today to see it all in action

“Everyone should be able to swim. It is incredibly important for safety; 400 people in the UK alone lost their lives last year from drowning and with the right teaching and support we can help to combat shocking statistics like this.

“The highest class teachers are coming here and doing a fantastic job with the kids, I have heard so many great things and it has been a pleasure to be here today to see it all in action and be able to play a part in getting the nation swimming.

“Swimming is the only sport that exercises all of the muscles in the body so it’s the perfect way to get fit, active and healthy.”

Gill Osbourne, Preston City Council , added:

I would really urge parents to take their children swimming from an early age and get them familiar with being in the water.

“In Preston, there are a number of children who come to the pool and are absolutely terrified, simply because they have had no experience in the water prior to arriving at school swimming lessons. This makes it much more difficult to learn to swim confidently. I would really urge parents to take their children swimming from an early age and get them familiar with being in the water.

“We have been fortunate enough to receive £10,000 from the ASA to support us with  expenditures such as teaching costs so we are able to provide the best service possible and ensure the children are water competent in 12 weeks. Each child will receive between five to ten lessons in this time and will come away being able to complete the National Curriculum target of 25m.”

The 12m x 6m portable pool, built by Total Swimming and headed up by Olympic bronze medallist Steve Parry, will also be available out of school hours so its benefits can spread throughout the whole community providing a range of activities from female only adult lessonsto mini-polo and aqua-aerobics delivered by experienced teachers; over a 100 community users have benefitted from the programme so far.

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