School swimming success at Willow Dene School

As the only primary special school in Greenwich, Willow Dene School face a variety of challenges in their approach to school swimming lessons.

With the benefits to children’s confidence, skills and fitness, the school understands the importance of teaching their pupils to swim.

Click play on the video at the top of the page to find out more about Willow Dene’s school swimming lessons

But as their students have a wide range of special educational needs, Willow Dene take a more personal approach to its school swimming.

Personalised approach to school swimming lessons

The staff play a key role in the success at Willow Dene. Each of the teachers know the children inside out and understand their needs and strengths.

The children have different levels of physical ability, often exiting and entering the pool in different ways.

The school also have personalised floats and resources such as shark fins, buoyancy belts and jackets, purchased specifically to help individual children and give them more independence in the water.

Their approach uses a variety of themes – such as pirates or the very hungry caterpillar – to deliver the swimming lessons.

Each theme lasts between four and six weeks, with the poolside decorated in coordination with the theme.

What has been the impact?

As a result of the themed swimming equipment, the children are engaged and eager to participate as soon as they enter the pool area.

The range of floats means all children at the school are able to take part in swimming lessons.

And the lessons have helped them develop their mobility skills as well as experience a sense of freedom in the water.

For some of the children, being in the water with is the one time they feel physically free from equipment and in control of their body.

ASA Programme Manager Susan Barlow said: “The school has a fantastic swimming programme. They cater for all their children’s needs and the children just love their swimming days.

“They have brought what they learn in the classroom into the pool and the children find this much easier to relate to.

“The teachers and helpers are fantastic they really get into the spirit of the themed lesson. It is lovely to see the children enjoying themselves.”


website: Skylab