More than half of the swim schools that took part in a recent survey by the Swimming Teachers’ Association (STA) admitted that the increase in demand for lessons compared with pool time availability was a concern.
A further 58 per cent said a limited number of pools also gave them cause for concern. With demand for swimming lessons constantly outstripping swimming pool availability, the UK is seeing a marked increase in swim school businesses either building their own home swimming pools or renting other peoples’ private residential pools.
Paul Davis, the coach who first introduced Tom Daley to the water, is being forced to build his own swimming pool at home for his swim coaching business because Plymouth children are being left with no water time, he says.
Swim school owners Richard and Kathleen Gay are also pool facility casualties. They were also forced to build a purpose-built pool in their garden, following the closure of the pool they had previously occupied. The pool closure left 250 children without any swimming facilities and after exhausting all other avenues the couple took the bold move to apply for planning permission to build their own pool with the help of Grayfox Swimming Pools.
Richard commented: “We were devastated when the school pool closed. It had been on the cards for a while due to lack of funding, but it was closed much earlier than expected, leaving many children with no swimming facilities to use.”
He added: “We searched extensively for a new home in the local area, but with very few pools in the area it became an impossible task. Our only option was to build a small pool in our garden to teach private lessons on a small scale.”
Although difficult to quantify due to lack of a definitive national database, conservative estimates by the STA suggest there are thousands of private swim schools across the UK. The private swim school market comprises a mix of franchises and independent schools, large and small who all operate out of school pools, hydro pools in a healthcare setting, health clubs and hotel pools.
“The private swim school has grown enormously over the past decade, and there are many excellent independent swim schools operating,” says Kayle Burgham, STA’s technical manager for aquatics.
“In terms of actual swimming figures, we award over a million badges and certificates every year to children though our international Learn to Swim programme, however this number has declined in recent years, which we believe is because there has been a reduction in primary school swimming.”
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