We owe it to our children to keep municipal swimming pools open – Yahoo Sport UK

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Michael Jamieson, founder of the Michael Jamieson Swim Academy, makes the case for the invaluable gift of teaching children to swim

Michael Jamieson, founder of the Michael Jamieson Swim Academy, makes the case for the invaluable gift of teaching children to swim

Michael Jamieson is founder of the Michael Jamieson Swim Academy

WHILE I appreciate that what follows could be filed under the heading “He Would Say That” I feel bound to make a case for the invaluable gift of teaching our children to swim, and to highlight the reality that many will never learn.

As a former Olympian swimmer – the highlight was a Silver at the 2012 London Olympics – I am now engaged on a different ambition, to make children safe and confident in the water.

The Michael Jamieson Swim Academy instructs 1,700 learners weekly in Central Scotland, soon to be 2,000. My team of 34 instructors daily see children overcoming their instinctive fear of the water, gaining in confidence and growing in stature.

Swimming can keep a child’s heart and lungs healthy, improve strength and flexibility, increase stamina and improve balance and posture. Ultimately, it can save their life, and the lives of others.

But all these benefits aside, there is one other, wonderful reason why every child should have the chance to learn to swim – it’s fun. It never ceases to be fun.

That is why it is dispiriting to live in times such as these, when the opportunities for children across the UK to acquire this life skill are being eroded, rather than being enhanced.

The most recent reports indicate that some 40% of children in this country, more than three million 7–11-year-olds, cannot swim competently or perform a self-rescue – a damning indictment in itself, but almost certainly also a factor in the tragic fact that in 2021, of the 277 people who drowned in the UK, many were children and teenagers.

An integral part of the background to these troubling statistics is that swimming pools available to the public, and where children might take their first hesitant strokes, are closing at an alarming rate.

A recent BBC report showed that swimmers across the UK lost access to more than 60 public pools in the last three years and that one in six local authorities had lost at least one pool on a permanent or temporary basis, as of March 2022.

Academies such as ours, which sit in pricing terms somewhere between municipal and private provision, can certainly take up some of the slack, and fully private operations are attracting greater custom than ever.

But not everyone can access these options and there is no doubt that lessons in the local council pool are most definitely more affordable.

For that reason alone, it is desirable to keep as many municipal facilities open as possible, with as many children as possible learning to look after themselves, acquiring a pivotal skill and engaging positively with others.

As in so many cases, the Victorians were way ahead of us, building grand, beautifully tiled, wooden-cubicled public baths up and down the country for everyone to enjoy. Many of them survive and provide a valuable resource.

It would be sad if we couldn’t meet and match that level of civic pride and public spirit. And if we couldn’t stop failing our children.


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