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A nation swimming

Headteachers urged to keep school pools open so children can learn vital life skill

Headteachers in Merseyside are being urged to keep school swimming pools open so that a generation of youngsters don’t miss out on learning a vital life skill during the coronavirus lockdown.

Swim England has confirmed that despite the local decision to close leisure centres in the region as part of tier 3 lockdown, school pools in Merseyside are still permitted to remain open under Government guidelines.

The recognised national governing body is being backed by Olympic swimming stars who fear if school pools are closed unnecessarily under tier 3 restrictions, the decision will be replicated in other areas given the same status.

Under the Government guidelines for tier 3, exercise classes and organised sport activities are permitted to ‘take place indoors if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with or for youth or disability sport’.

Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington said: “It’s great news that school pools can stay open.

“This is important so that a generation of youngsters will not miss out on what could potentially be their only opportunity to learn how to swim.

“Decisions are being made by schools on extremely short timelines so this clarity is welcomed.

“If school pools close, it would have huge implications on the health and mental wellbeing of thousands of pupils and puts them at risk of not knowing what to do if they find themselves or others in difficulty in the water.”

Steve Parry, a strong advocate of school swimming for a number of years, agreed that school swimming facilities should not get caught up in the shutdown.

The Olympic bronze medallist said: “There are many proactive headteachers of schools in the region who reopened following the national lockdown and it is great that they can continue to stay open so children can continue to enjoy their school swimming lessons.

Valuable health benefits

“We all have a responsibility to make sure our children understand how to stay safe in the water and keeping school pools open will ensure that, after months of lockdown, they can continue to enjoy their curriculum swimming.”

Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson has written to city council leaders to reiterate that school pools are exempt from closure in the latest measures and so should remain open.

Jane added: “Despite the disappointing decision to close leisure centres in Merseyside, we are urging school pools to remain open as they are able to continue to provide valuable health benefits and water safety lessons to thousands of young people within Government guidelines.”

It was announced yesterday that discussions between central and local government will take place before deciding what restrictions will be placed on areas moving into tier 3 in the future.

This would mean that some areas would not necessarily follow the Merseyside example and still allow leisure centres to operate if they were subsequently moved into tier 3.

Jane has also written to local leaders across the country, in areas at risk of moving into tier 3, encouraging them not to include swimming pools in any additional lockdown measures as they remain well-managed, low-risk spaces that need to be at the forefront of the nation’s recovery from Covid-19.