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Popular learn to swim programme eases concerns of parents post lockdown

A popular learn to swim programme has eased the concerns of parents by proving swimming lessons can safely take place following the coronavirus lockdown.

Derby City Council restarted swimming lessons on Monday 27 July – two days after pools were given the go ahead to reopen by the Government.

Although some parents were apprehensive, staff at Derby Active have been able to alleviate their worries and now more youngsters are returning for lessons.

Ben Hannan, Sports Manager for Derby City Council, said: “During the first week we opened, from speaking to customers, many said that they were apprehensive about coming back as they didn’t know what to expect.

“Now they’ve been back, it’s been great to hear their feedback, particularly around the spaciousness.

“Numbers have been good and parents are keen to get the kids active and back into the water.

“We’ve found customers have been really understanding of the measures in place which are now the ‘new normal’ and it’s created a calm environment that’s been helpful in ensuring everyone enjoys their visit.

“As everyone has, we’ve had to think about how to reasonably ask a four or five-year-old to socially distance,” said Ben. “So we have created quite a few visual aids to help.

Working through challenges

“We were mindful that we needed to work through the challenges but ensure we could continue teaching a safe and enjoyable lesson to all age groups.

“Our marketing team have been brilliant in creating different types of fish in a range of colours fixed at the appropriate distance and the children were each given their own one, so every time they swim or move around the pool they always have a reference point.

“It’s definitely created an easy way for our teachers to help keep participants apart.

“We’ve used all Swim England’s guidance to create a plan and help us return to operating swimming lessons and the timing of the release of the guidance also helped to give us time to prepare, prior to the Government reopening date being announced.

“Not only has the guidance been helpful, we’ve also been fortunate to be a part of the regional network groups that Swim England and the Institute of Swimming set up and it’s been useful talking to other providers and sharing knowledge across the UK.

“Ordinarily, we don’t tend to talk to pools so far away but with the current situation and a common theme nationwide, it’s great to be part of a connected community driving towards the same outcomes, something we feel positive that lockdown has enhanced.”

During the time pools were shut, Ben said his team had taken advantage of the down time to increase their skill set and look at developing the offer for customers – especially as the city’s new Moorways Sports Village is under construction.

The new facility will provide a 50m pool which can be transformed into three separate pools, providing opportunities to hold different activities at the same time. There will also be also be a separate learner pool and water park.

Helped to bounce back

“Like many others, our learn to swim programme was thriving before lockdown and we were growing the programme ahead of having a lot more water space in the future,” said Ben.

“We’d done quite a lot of work at the start of the year in order to grow and added hundreds to the programme over three months, but then unfortunately we had to close.

“We have however kept working all the way through lockdown and it’s given us a chance to focus on development and training to help us bounce back.

“That’s helped us get right out of the gates when the Government date was released as we knew our focus on safety, processes and staff were ready to go.

“Some of the development work we have been working on is around offering an enhanced age range for our learn to swim programme. Before lockdown, we provided lessons for 3+, however we’re excited to be moving towards offering lessons to younger pre-school children very soon!”

The next challenge for Derby’s Learn to Swim team is school swimming lessons.

Pre lockdown, school swimming sessions would run every morning and afternoon – and now Swim England has published its Returning to the Pool Guidance for School Swimming, Ben said they will be creating a plan to encourage schools to return safely to the water once again.

He added: “We will continue to monitor both Swim England’s and the Governments guidance, listen to and work with our customers to be proactive in our measures for our learn to swim programme, and the next step is welcoming our schools back.

“We usually have a full programme for school swimming and we’re looking forward to working with the schools to safely reintroduce their pupils to the water.”

To find out more about Derby City Council’s Learn to Swim programme, visit www.inderby.org.uk/active/swimming/.

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