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Council / Swimming lesson proposal would see classes stop for secondary one and two

The swimming pool at the West Mainland Leisure Centre in Aith. Photo: SRT

COUNCILLORS are being asked to remove swimming lessons for children in secondary one and two – but keep classes for most in primary.

It comes after a review was carried out into swimming lesson provision to see if savings could be made.

It has proved a somewhat contentious issue. Parents and teaching staff were consulted on their views on the way forward.

A decision is set to be made at a meeting of Shetland Islands Council’s education and families committee on Monday.

The council uses the isles’ leisure centres for its PE swimming lessons in the school day.

At the moment the Shetland Recreational Trust (SRT) also offers ‘Learn to Swim’ classes outside of school, and these come with a cost, although people on benefits can receive cheaper sessions.

Children from primary one to secondary two currently receive six weeks of swimming lessons in a school year. But there is no statutory requirement for the council to provide these lessons within the PE curriculum.

In many cases this comes with a need to provide transport to the swimming pools.

Councillors are being advised to reduce universal swimming lesson provision to primary one to primary four children.

There is then a recommendation for a flexible targeted approach for primary five to seven in conjunction with leisure centre operator SRT.

This could be either for small groups or delivered on a one-to-one basis, and it could take place during the school day or outwith. The programme would be focused on children who could not swim by the end of P4.

Under these proposals it would mean secondary one and two pupils would lose free school swimming lessons entirely.

The proposal is to phase in these recommendations, with all primary pupils keeping their lessons in 2023/24 but secondary one and two ceasing. This would create savings of around £23,330 for the year.

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In the school year 2024/25 the new model would be fully implemented, saving around £53,510.

In a review paper prepared by the children’s services department, it was highlighted that although primary children particularly enjoy swimming lessons, not all pupils are a fan.

“There are a significant number who for a variety of reasons including a lack of body confidence and fear of being made fool of, dislike swimming and highlight it as a real source of stress and anxiety at school,” it said.

“In some cases this leads to absences from school or the regular production of notes to be excused from swimming classes.”

More than 860 people responded to the council’s consultation on the future of swimming lessons.

The preferred options from this were for primary one to seven only, and also a targeted approach – resulting in council officers proposing a mix of the two.

Under the proposals the delivery of school swimming lessons for pupils with an ASN would continue to be delivered flexibly to meet their needs.

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