Olympians Becky Adlington and Steve Parry warn of swimming crisis in Sheffield with children missing lessons due to teacher shortage
“If children can’t access lessons because there aren’t enough teachers, it’s a huge worry.” – Two GB Olympians have warned of a swimming crisis with children missing lessons due to a teacher shortage.
GB Olympic medallists Rebecca Adlington and Steve Parry spoke out as a national campaign was launched to help recruit the next generation of swim teachers, with Becky highlighting the importance of teaching youngsters a life skill and Steve describing the number of children leaving primary school unable to swim as “dire”.
There was a shortage of trained swimming teachers pre-Covid, but the pandemic exacerbated the issue due to the closure of pools across the UK.
Schools without their own pool could not provide lessons, and swim schools could not operate, with staff forced to leave and find alternative employment - many then opting not to return due to worries about the availability of work and reduced income.
“You have to describe the current situation as a crisis,” Becky says.
“There’s always been a shortage of swimming teachers, but the problem has escalated because of Covid.
“Swimming, together with water safety, is such an important life skill, and sadly, many many children still drown each year.
“It genuinely helps save people’s lives, so you have to see it as a life skill rather than just a sport.
“If children can’t access lessons because there aren’t enough teachers, it’s a huge worry.”
The easing of lockdown restrictions led to a surge in demand for lessons that have not been met due to the shortage of qualified teachers, which, in turn, has created long waiting lists.
Swim England, the national governing body in England, revealed earlier this year that a nationwide shortage of 8,000 swimming teachers could mean as many as 600,000 children miss out on lessons.
And one million children could leave primary school in the next five years unable to swim the minimum standard under the national curriculum, with warnings of a “lost generation” of swimmers unless action is taken to halt the decline.
With school swimming also in decline, a huge recruitment drive is needed to fill the teaching gap.
Sporting House, the company founded by Steve, which includes swim!, Total Swimming Academies, Beth Tweddle Gymnastics and Becky Adlington’s SwimStars, is investing almost £3m to address the issue.
“It’s dire,” Steve says. “I fundamentally believe all children should be able to swim.
“So does our education system, given it’s a statutory requirement at Key Stage 2, but we are failing to achieve it drastically.”
“We want to be part of the solution by providing more swimming spaces, recruiting more good quality teachers and offering more lessons.”
Sporting House hopes to recruit 100 swimming teachers by the end of the year.
They will pay the £1,000 training costs for each teacher and stress that would-be applicants don’t need any previous experience or qualifications.
Teachers will earn an average of £20,000 per year, and there will be career pathways for them to follow.
Anyone interested in applying for a position as a swim coach can apply via www.thesportinghouse.co.uk/careers.