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Making a splash in North Glasgow

Our initiative in North Glasgow addressed the problem of a high number of children in the community being unable to swim. 

As well as missing out on the benefits of swimming to health, wellbeing and physical literacy, there were safety concerns for local children due to the proximity of the canal network.  Free school swimming lessons are not available in Glasgow until primary seven and there was a lack of affordable opportunities for children in deprived areas of North Glasgow to gain experience in the water.

What happened

We worked with Scottish Swimming and Glasgow Life to establish free nursery swimming in Springburn Leisure Centre.

The pilot enabled 48 pre-school children to take part in a five-week swimming block by organising pool-time, arranging transport for local nursery children, funding the free lessons and recruiting and training instructors.

Nurseries now promote swimming to parents so that they arrange going to the swimming lessons themselves, with six classes running every Wednesday at Springburn Leisure Centre.

The partnership with Scottish Swimming also delivered the ‘Swim for Change’ programme in North Glasgow which trains young people to become swim instructors. This supports the free swimming programme and provides invaluable opportunities for local youth to develop their life skills and employability.

What the parents and coaches say

One instructor said that about 90% of children in her classes had never been swimming before. At the beginning most had low water confidence and skills.

After taking part 90% could go under the water and submerge their faces and the majority could float and kick across the pool.

Engaging with parents is key. Instructors meet with parents before and after class to offer tips on things to work on at home. Parents are extremely receptive and many of them have gained water skills and confidence themselves. One dad said that he’d been very scared of the water after a bad childhood experience as and never took his child swimming, after taking part in the course he felt he had the confidence to ensure his child could swim.

What worked

The project has been popular, both with the local community and participants.

A number of factors were key to its success:

  • engaging with nurseries and parents to reach children
  • lessons provided both fun and a focus on water skills and confidence
  • working with partners, accessing facilities and following Glasgow Life’s Learn to Swim curriculum
  • enabling swimming to be free  - parents want their children to participate without financial barriers
  • recruiting young adults from the local area to become instructors

What's next

For the free swimming project to make the greatest impact to local people, it has to be both affordable and accessible as well as having links with nurseries and schools.

Some children who took part in the programme are now at a level that they could progress to mainstream swimming classes, however these are often oversubscribed and costly. In Glasgow, school swimming is only on offer in Primary 7.

Long term planning for the free swimming programme and ‘Swim for Change’ is now in progress with partners including Swim Scotland and Glasgow Life. Ideally this will also tie-in with local schools, Active Schools, clubs, colleges and potentially private providers.

Please get in touch if you'd like any more information about the project.