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Swim England’s new Heart of Aquatics plan will ‘create a better future’ for sports

Swim England has vowed ‘to create a better future’ for everyone in its sports as part of a cultural change journey which will put members, coaches, teachers, parents, clubs and swim schools at the heart of aquatics.

Included in the national governing body’s new safeguarding, welfare and culture plan, Heart of Aquatics, is a commitment to listen to the ‘experiences and views’ of everyone involved in aquatics in a bid to be able to take ‘proactive formative action’.

Swim England will use independent experts to lead the listening work, as well as in the delivery and scrutiny of the Heart of Aquatics plan to ensure there is a ‘positive culture across its sports and that the highest standards of welfare and safeguarding are in place’.

The plan focuses on three key pillars of work in 2023 – listen, support and resource.

These are ‘critical’ to the Heart of Aquatics’ success as they will help Swim England to ‘understand and reflect’ on what is going well or not going well – and what needs to improve.

Richard Hookway, the chair of the Swim England Board, said the learning generated from listening to members, participants, coaches, teachers, parents, clubs and swim schools will inform future action plans.

He said: “Everyone at Swim England is focused on us being an exemplary organisation.

“Aquatics is a powerful force for good in this country, supporting people’s physical and mental health and there are fantastic examples of this across the country.

“However, we know that, on occasions, behaviours have fallen short of the culture we desire.

“We recognise we must continuously strive to improve in order to foster a positive culture and deliver for the people who are the lifeblood of our aquatic sports.

“To ensure that happens, we need the help of the aquatics community.

First step on cultural change journey

“By listening to our participants, workforce and stakeholders, we can provide the necessary support for our community and increase the resources available – and by listening independently we will ensure we get an honest, thorough reflection of the culture within aquatics now and previously.

“The Heart of Aquatics is the first step on our cultural change journey. We know there is much more to do and, by working together, we can achieve these goals.”

Swim England has already started to implement ‘important reforms and significant changes’ within its sports and organisation.

A core part of Swim England’s approach within this safeguarding, welfare and culture plan – and its soon-to-be-published new strategy, Access Aquatics – will be learning and evolving.

Jane Nickerson, Swim England chief executive, added: “I’m delighted to see the Heart of Aquatics Safeguarding, Welfare and Culture Plan for 2023 officially launched.

“Recent experiences across society and within our sports have shown in painful detail exactly why Heart of Aquatics is needed.

“We have a zero tolerance approach to poor behaviour but we have to be open and recognise that sadly not everyone has had the positive experience we would expect from participation in our sports.

“For that I am truly sorry.

“If we are to be successful in this cultural change journey then we need everyone in aquatics, in any role at any level, to commit to collectively doing everything we possibly can to deliver the positive, safe, welcoming environment and culture that we all want to see.

“That change must start with us and everyone at Swim England is committed to playing our role in making this a success for the benefit of everyone.”

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