ASA report culture change needed in employment of teachers and coaches

5 November 2010

A recent review of learn to swim employment has revealed that there should be a move towards teachers and coaches being employed on a full-time basis, with formalised contracts.  Currently the typical teacher or coach is a part-time, casual employee.

This is in order to meet both the demands of the industry and the goals of the UK Coaching Framework (UKCF) – the system to make coaching in the UK world-leading.

That is according to the ASA’s comprehensive programme of research into the delivery of the UKCF, which has consisted of a series of focus groups and one-to-one interviews with management and staff of major leisure providers, local authorities and swim schools. 

The ASA now has a clear focus on what changes are required within the aquatic industry to meet the needs of swimmers, their teachers and coaches and ultimately their employers.

ASA Workforce Development manager Colin Huffen said: “We need the system to allow coaches to work more often and to really establish the role of a teacher or coach as a stable, recognised full-time career. The research shows that it’s what they want, it’s what employers want and it’s what the industry demands. Of course the ultimate result will be higher quality learn to swim provision.”

The main aim of the coaching framework is to increase the current level of coaching/teaching to a target of 5 million hours per year.

“The number of coaches qualifying has remained static for a number of years so our strategy to reach the target of 5 million ‘coaching hours’ is to increase the number of hours delivered by each teacher or coach, rather than radically increasing the numbers of coaches or teachers.” Colin said.

The research has identified appropriate actions that will increase the number of hours delivered, whilst keeping staffing numbers constant and enhancing the productivity of teachers and coaches. Prioritised areas have been identified as:-

  • Expand the teaching role to make it more attractive as a well paid and rewarding career.
  • Introduce full-time opportunities by combining leisure centre roles such as receptionist, co-ordinator or lifeguard.
  • Offer contracts which give high staff satisfaction but that meet demand peaks and troughs.
  • Develop clear career paths to encourage personal development.
  • Expand training and continuing professional development opportunities.
  • Introduce Personal Development Plans to align training needs of teachers and the learn to swim scheme and reward the acquisition of new skills.

The research also compared swimming jobs with tennis coaching and the fitness industry and threw up some simple but effective ideas. For example, adding variety by providing a poolside advice service from teachers, in the same way a gym instructor would walk around the gym. 

Becoming a full time employee should also go some way to making teachers and coaches feel a valued part of the organisation. A swim school manager commented, “Some teachers have an attitude where they teach their corner of the pool and then go home. They don’t contribute, they don’t discuss, they don’t talk to others, and they don’t attend meetings.” The ASA wants to change this.

An executive summary of the results is available upon request directly to Colin Huffen at

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