Swim England

A nation swimming

We’re making good progress on Heart of Aquatics but the hard work continues

Richard Hookway, the chair of Swim England’s Board, gives a progress report on the national governing body’s safeguarding, welfare and culture plan, Heart of Aquatics.

A little over four months ago, the members of the Swim England board and I made a pledge to you – our members, participants, coaches, teachers, parents, clubs and swim schools.

We vowed that things must change after recognising there had been unacceptable behaviours and practices within our sports.

For that, we expressed our heartfelt apologies – and gave a sincere promise to do everything within our power to create a better future for everyone involved in aquatics.

Our safeguarding, welfare and culture plan, Heart of Aquatics, set out our commitments to make everyone feel safe, included and welcome at all times.

Our three pillars of work in this plan – listen, support, resource – underpin the key actions we are implementing.

Although we knew this wasn’t something which could be achieved overnight, it’s heartening to see the significant progress which has already been made in such a short period of time.

We have achieved a lot but recognise we have much more still to do.

Our progress includes:

  • Launching our listening programme with independent experts The Behavioural Architects conducting comprehensive interviews with the aquatics community in a bid to help create positive change.
  • Appointing eight members to our new Oversight Committee. This is a vitally-important group which will provide direction to the Heart of Aquatics action plan in the future as we learn more from our members and stakeholders.
  • Delivering a new safeguarding refresher course for swimming teachers, coaches and other personnel working within the aquatics environment.
  • Launching the Optimal Coach Development Framework which outlines the characteristics, attributes and behaviours required of coaches at various stages of the talent pathway.
  • Holding workshops with coaches to clarify the new safeguarding policies and procedures, particularly with reference to the complaints process.
  • Changing our weighing athletes guidance into policy to which all clubs and coaches must adhere.

Before the end of this year, the findings from the listening work carried out by The Behavioural Architects will be presented to the Oversight Committee and the Board. The report will be published in full and used to guide our activity in 2024 and beyond.

We will also be updating Wavepower, our child safeguarding policy and procedures for clubs, to reflect our expectations from next year onwards.

There is much more planned, including workshops to highlight the awareness of disordered eating and eating disorders and how to signpost for further support – as well as reviewing the existing swimming coaching certificates to enhance safeguarding, culture and welfare.

Since the launch of Heart of Aquatics in March, we have been encouraging people who wish to speak to us about present or historic incidents of concerns to contact our safeguarding team.

It is vitally important that we hear from you.

As part of the reports we have already received, we are revisiting and reviewing historic investigations.

We are determined to learn from the past and we are striving to foster a positive culture and deliver for those who are the lifeblood of our sports.

With your support, help and informative input we can continue on our cultural change journey for the benefit of everyone.

Report a concern

If you have a concern about the welfare of a child or adult at risk or the behaviour of an adult towards a child, young person under 18 years of age or adult at risk within a Swim England Programme or Club, please report this for Swim England to investigate fully.

The team is staffed by individuals who are experienced in dealing with these concerns and have undergone specific training for those who have a designated role in child protection within sports.

Contact safeguarding@swimming.org or complete the safeguarding referral form.