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SECRETARY OF STATE SEES FREE SWIMMING SUCCESS

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30 Oct 2009

Ben Bradshaw, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has seen for himself the difference the Government’s Free Swimming initiative is making to under 16s in one of the most deprived areas of the country.

Bradshaw visited Gloucester’s GL1 Leisure Centre yesterday following on from the announcement earlier this week that more than 10m swims have been taken across England since the initiative launched in April.
 
Gloucester initially joined the scheme in April for the over 60s only but in June also decided to offer free swims to those aged 16 and under. The centre has also been working closely with the ASA to deliver Free Swimming lessons to those who may not have accessed the pool otherwise.

So far over 27,000 free swims have been enjoyed and free swimming has been particularly popular with children and young people in Gloucester. The GL1 Leisure Centre has seen the number of those aged 16 and under swimming triple and this week reached the mark of having 8,000 children taking part in the scheme.

Bradshaw said: “It’s really great they have had nearly 30,000 free swims already in just the first six months of the scheme. And of the under 16s, nearly of half of those are people who had not swum here before. Some of these are children who may have been hanging around the streets but are now being active and having fun.”

GL1 have backed up the scheme with a comprehensive database which means they can map exactly who has used the offer of free swimming, where they have travelled from and how many times they use the pool.

This has highlighted 42 per cent of young people now swimming at the pool had never done so before the scheme was launched locally in June. It has also shown the percentage of children visiting from the surrounding areas, most of which are within the highest 10 per cent of deprivation in the country.

GL1 have also successfully harnessed new technology by allowing people to sign up to the scheme online (users need to register before they can access free swimming) and they have found 37 per cent of people used the web to join in.

GL1’s Chief Executive Steve Elway is delighted with the response from his team and the success of the scheme. But he is also realistic that there is a shortfall in funding between the government’s cash and the cost to the centre that must be addressed. 

He explained: “After six months we have been able to actually quantify the funding gap and in reality that amounts to £40,000. We are prepared to contribute to that but we will need partners, and a number of partners, to breach that funding for the second year of the scheme.”

Additional funding has been made available via government, and has been administered by the ASA, to provide Free Swimming lessons so the initiative also becomes available to those who have never learnt to swim. So far GL1 has already held lessons for a number of  groups including Asian and Traveller communities and youth groups, such as children who are not engaged in school.

Alan Green, the ASA’s County Swimming Co-ordinator for Gloucestershire, said: “GL1 is a fantastic facility and they have embraced Free Swimming and worked extremely hard to make it work, which is why the figures are where they are today.

“The centre’s staff work proactively with me and have been really responsive to the suggestions from the ASA. They have delivered some great ‘quick fix’ lessons and they are now looking to embrace further funding to target more hard to reach groups.” 

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Government's free swimming scheme.
The latest free swimming statistics are available by CLICKING HERE

-ENDS-

For more information contact the ASA PR Manager Sharon Rose on 01509 632262, 07876 652318 or email sharon.rose@swimming.org

The ASA is the English National Governing Body for Swimming, Diving, Water Polo, Open Water, and Synchronised Swimming. It organises competition throughout England, establishes the Laws of the Sport and operates comprehensive certification and education programmes for Teachers, Coaches and Officials as well as its renowned Learn To Swim Awards scheme. The ASA supports 1,220 affiliated swimming clubs through a National/Regional/County structure. The ASA aims to ensure everybody has an opportunity to learn to swim.

About British Gas
British Gas is Britain's favourite domestic energy supplier. As well as providing gas and electricity, it also installs and maintains central heating and gas appliances in millions of homes throughout the country. British Gas is very proud to be the principal partner of British Swimming and home countries: The ASA, Scottish Swimming and Swim Wales. British Gas is supporting the team's quest for medals on the world and Olympic stage - and giving as many people as possible the opportunity to learn to swim and use swimming as part of a healthy lifestyle. British Gas wants to ensure local pools remain at the heart of our communities. By using its expertise, it can help them reduce costs by being more energy efficient and safeguard the facilities for this and future generations. For more information visit www.britishgas.co.uk/swimming

About Kellogg's
The Kellogg Company was founded in 1906 and today produces 40 different cereals including popular brands such as Special K, Cornflakes and Coco Pops, and 56 different snacks including brands such as Nutri-Grain and Special K snacks. Kellogg's has been a partner of the ASA and British Swimming for 13 years, sponsoring the Kellogg's ASA Awards and enabling over 50,000 people to take up swimming as part of an active lifestyle.

About Speedo®
The world’s leading swimwear brand, Speedo® is passionate about life in and around the water, creating revolutionary new technologies, designs and innovations. Supporting swimming from grass-roots through to elite level, including the phenomenal Michael Phelps, Speedo® is owned by Speedo Holdings B.V and distributed in over 170 countries around the world; SPEEDO, the ARROW device, FASTSKIN, LZR PULSE, SPEEDO ENDURANCE, FLIPTURNS, FASTSKINFSII, SPEEDO BIOFUSE, SWYM and LZR RACER are registered trademarks of Speedo Holdings B.V. The LZR RACER suit has worldwide design rights and patents pending.

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Go Swimming has everything you need to know about swimming. If you are a parent, a non swimmer or just want to improve your technique this is the section for you.

In British Swimming you will find information about the world of high performance sport, including the disciplines of Swimming, Diving, Synchronised Swimming, Water Polo and Para-Swimming.

The ASA is the governing body for the sport in England. In this section you will find all you need to know about joining a club or competing in England and becoming a swimming teacher or coach.

The IoS delivers the ASA’s courses and is a member organisation. Whether you are a teacher, coach, employer or club you will find everything you need to know about qualifications or educating your workforce.

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