Scores of teens show up for first free swimming lessons in Maidenhead and Windsor

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

Free swimming lessons for teens made a splash at the Braywick and Windsor leisure centres this week – with more planned throughout the summer.

The sessions for teens aged 13-17 are intended to help swimmers get some practice and guidance, with swim tuition offered at certain times during the programme.

More than 2,600 spaces have been made available, daily from Monday to Friday, in the mornings and early afternoons as well as some evening sessions at Windsor Leisure pool on Tuesdays.

The scheme started on Monday (July 25) and the sessions welcomed 77 swimmers in the first two days.

Leisure Focus, which runs the gyms, launched the scheme in the wake of reports of teens dying after getting into trouble in open water in the Borough.

The Leisure Focus Trust successfully applied for a grant of £2,000 for the Louis Baylis Trust to help set up the sessions.

Louis Baylis trustee Peter Sands said:“When we were asked, we were 100 per cent behind it.

“It’s appropriate that Leisure Focus are focusing on that target group, given there have been two or three deaths of teenagers recently.

“We felt we needed to react quickly to take full advantage of the summer holidays.

“If the forecast is to be believed, we’re going to have a hot August and hotter days encourage people to take a dip.

“But there’s a difference between taking a dip and actually swimming, particularly swimming in the middle of [open water], it can cause all sorts of problems.”

The swimming sessions could help tackle on the local level something that could be an increasing national problem – decreased swimming proficiency.

Last year, Swim England (the national governing body for swimming) identified a significant deficit in swimming ability among children on the cusp of leaving primary school.

It predicted that most children going into secondary school will not be able to swim one length of a 25-metre pool by 2025.

This ability is thought to be a basic requirement for swimming proficiency and thus, is a curriculum target in primary schools.

Before the COVID pandemic, around a quarter of children could not swim the statutory 25 metres when they left primary school – but it is feared this could rise to three in five by 2025-26.

COVID itself is likely to be part of the problem. There were mass closures of public pools and a sharp drop in the number of available swimming lessons.

In addition, 84 per cent of schools in England identified a decline in children's physical fitness as a result of lockdown.

Those from most deprived backgrounds suffer the most, with 54 per cent of children from deprived areas in England able to swim 25 metres, compared to 68 per cent of those in the least.

There are also inequalities between ethnicities, with 51 per cent of children from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds able to swim the requirement, compared to 66 per cent of white British children.

Sessions at the two leisure centres will continue through the summer at the following times:

  • Braywick: Monday to Friday: 11am-12pm
  • Windsor fitness pool: Monday to Friday: 12.15pm -1.15pm
  • Windsor leisure pool every Tuesday: 7-8pm

Swimmers do not have to book in advance.

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