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Published in Sports Management 2018 issue 3
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New learn to swim standards are setting us up for failure

Eduardo Ferré,

Founder and group director,

Swimming Nature


I read with interest the recent news in Sports Management about the new Learn to Swim standards introduced by the European Swimming Federation.

Ensuring children are all taught the same skills regardless of the country they live in is a step in the right direction and the ambition to get children to swim 200 meters in a recognisable stroke by the time they are 11 would be a dream come true.

However, this objective in the new standards raises more questions than answers.

For the last decade, the ambition in the UK has been to get children to swim 25 metres by the time they’re 11. Currently, our success rate in relation to this target is just 45 per cent.

How can we possibly increase this eight times without any acknowledgement of the current challenge? If we were already achieving the 25-metre goal, raising the bar at this stage would make sense, however, my concern is that this new goal will set us up for failure if appropriate changes are not made.

We’re also missing the details. How did the Federation arrive at 200 metres in the first place? How will this be measured? Is there an accurate method for collecting and analysing this data? What is the timescale for this goal? To achieve this worthy objective, there needs to be a realistic and attainable plan in place.

Finally, there needs to be greater transparency on how the 200 metre goal is going to be accomplished. Will there be a mandate to reduce the number of children in a class to ensure more focused teaching?

While swimming is on the National Curriculum, many schools offer lessons infrequently throughout the year. This is not sufficient to learn to swim 25 meters in a recognisable stroke, let alone 200. Perhaps more budget needs to allocated to schools and swimming lessons need to be made a compulsory Ofsted requirement?

Overall, I am firmly in favour of these new standards and I applaud the European Swimming Federation for its ambitious goal. I’d love to see all children learning to swim 200 meters by age 11, swimming confidently and ultimately embracing swimming as a form of fitness. Achieving the goal will be a challenge, but I support it wholeheartedly. As soon as more details are available, I am keenly interested in collaborating with the European Swimming Federation to achieve this important objective.

"To achieve the 200-metre goal, there needs to be a realistic and attainable plan in place"

Ferré suggests that swimming lessons be made a compulsory Ofsted requirement / © shutterstock/Microgen
Ferré suggests that swimming lessons be made a compulsory Ofsted requirement/ © shutterstock/Microgen

Small changes can make a big difference to swimming participation

Dave Monkhouse,

Director,

Leisure-net Solutions


I was interested to read your swimming feature ‘A Deeper Issue’ in Sports Management Issue 1 2018.

Active Northumberland was chosen as one of 12 pilot operators for Sport England’s Swim Local research project, which aims to find out what’s causing the drop in swimming participation and test ways and approaches to get more people swimming again.

Funding from Sport England was used to explore participation, identifying that it’s the customer experience, not the swimming itself, that’s one of the main problems.

To address this, we carried out specialist customer service training with 240 staff; 20 five-hour sessions specifically tailored to give staff a shared identity and a broader understanding of the business as a whole.

Action taken as a result included adding new and innovative sessions to the timetable to attract a wider range of swimmers; a loyalty card; a monthly prize draw; a team member permanently on duty wearing a ‘Here to help’ t-shirt; customer kit pods for storing small items; and poolside hooks for towels and robes.

To date, the ‘Take The Plunge’ landing page has achieved more than 6,500 visitors and over 1,300 non-members have signed up to the reward card. The new classes have been fully booked, helping to overcome the perception that swimming is just about ‘lanes and lessons’, and positive customer feedback on changing room cleanliness and the impact of the new swim advisors has been overwhelming.

New fitness classes have attracted a wider range of customers to the pool
New fitness classes have attracted a wider range of customers to the pool

Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium must provide a lasting legacy for British athletics

Simon Dale,

Director,

Midlands at Mace


Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward has set the city the lofty ambition of hosting the best Commonwealth Games ever. In addition to that bold aspiration we also need to make sure the Games creates the greatest possible legacy for Birmingham, British sport and specifically UK Athletics.

As the home of UK Athletics, the Alexander Stadium needs to be configured to the needs of elite athletes and can only be considered a true success if it creates a long-term legacy for British athletics that lasts for years to come.

UK Sport as a whole has thrived at the past two Olympics, but apart from the performance of a couple of exceptional sportspeople, UK Athletics has underachieved.

Of the 14 athletics world titles Britain has won in the past decade, Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis-Hill account for nine of them. At the London 2017 World Athletic Championships, Mo Farah won Britain’s only individual medal.

A world class athletics facility is needed to provide a catalyst for change and create a platform for excellence in the way that the Manchester Velodrome has for British Cycling and the Institute for National Football at Clairefontaine has for the French Football team.

Birmingham 2022 must transform the Alexander Stadium so that it provides a legacy for the local community, Birchfield Harriers Athletics Club and a platform to usher in a new golden era for UK Athletics.

Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium will be the centre of the 2022 Commonwealth Games
Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium will be the centre of the 2022 Commonwealth Games
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