Inspire 2022 Commonwealth Games legacy project ‘making a difference’ to pupils’ lives8 August 2023
Learning water safety skills as part of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games legacy project has helped ‘make a difference’ to hundreds of pupils’ lives.
Primary schools across Birmingham and in the Black Country have been teaching dryside water safety skills in PE lessons, as well as receiving pool-based sessions for their year five and six pupils.
This support is part of Inspire 2022 – a Sport England funded project delivered by Swim England, which aims to provide innovative and accessible opportunities to help people from all kinds of backgrounds be safe around water and participate in aquatics.
Interventions are targeting children who are not, or are highly unlikely, to reach school swimming attainment rates and may face barriers preventing them from accessing the opportunity to gain these lifesaving skills.
Schoolteachers involved in the project have highlighted the progress that can be made with a few additional hours in the pool.
One said: “Some learners couldn’t even stand up in the water without panic.
“Earlier today, two of those children completed 25m, one completed 15m and the others all went in the deep end without arm bands.
“The extra sessions have changed the lives of these children as they can now look after themselves in water.
“The girls were so nervous but, by the end of the session, they all seemed so much more relaxed and confident in the water.
“We as teachers are already so proud of what they have achieved with both their confidence levels and swimming ability.”
Ready to learn
One year on from the end of Birmingham 2022, Fit, Fed and Swimming Breakfast Clubs have been attended by more than 200 youngsters from 70 schools in the region.
Sessions are running at five leisure centres across the city – offering free water safety skills lessons and free breakfasts before school.
Alongside Street Games and the Birmingham Community Leisure Trust (BCLT), the Fit, Fed and Swimming Breakfast Club sessions have proved to be a ‘fantastic’ way to keep children safe and healthy.
One parent said: “Not only does it bring the community out, it gives opportunity where we may not have fought to do this ourselves.”
Stuart Guest, the headteacher at Colebourne Primary School, in Birmingham’s Hodge Hill, said the breakfast lessons had helped his pupils with other aspects of their education as well.
He added: “For us, the breakfast club swimming has been fantastic.
“They come in in the morning and they’ve had a really good active start to the day.
“Not only are they learning swimming but they’ve already had a good piece of exercise and they’re ready to learn.
“More and more parents are realising the importance of swimming, really to enable their children to be safe around water.
“In Birmingham, where we are, we’ve got loads of canals, we’ve got loads of water ways. So, it’s really important they do learn those basic skills of survival and even a few metres of swimming could ultimately save their lives.
“A huge thank you to Swim England and Sport England for funding this.
“You’re really making a difference to our children and you’re helping to keep them safe and healthy.”
Beth Barratt, Swim England project lead for Inspire 2022, said the breakfast clubs had been a huge success.
She added: “We have had more than 200 children in the pool participating in swimming skills but also water safety skills which has been really valuable to them.
“We’re getting great feedback from the children to say they really enjoy it and that’s really important as we want them to have a positive experience of aquatics at their local pool.”
Now the work begins to extend the project so even more youngsters can gain the benefit of being active and safe in and around water.
Beth added: “We’re in the next phase now so we’re looking at ways we can develop these breakfast clubs further with an onward aquatic journey for the children involved.
“Support from local funders would secure the sustainability of these sessions for the longer term.”
To support the Fit, Fed and Swimming Breakfast Clubs and wider Learn to Swim Programmes, Inspire 2022 also seeks to address the local Swimming Teacher shortages and has worked with the Institute of Swimming’s Recruitment Academy model which aims to source, train and allow local leisure operators to recruit a diverse community based workforce.
The Inspire Community Recruitment Academy has seen funding allocated to 28 local aspiring swimming teachers to complete the programme, which includes achieving their qualifications whilst gaining practical experience through a placement with a local leisure centre.
Swim England has worked alongside a number of partners during the course of Inspire 2022 including Active Black Country, Sport Birmingham, the Black Swimming Association, the Association for PE, West Midlands Swimming and leisure operators from across Birmingham and the Black Country.