Everyone Active hosted a Victorian-style swimming lesson for 125 local school children to celebrate the 125th Anniversary of School Swimming.
The event took place at Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre in St Albans, and was held in partnership with Swim England and double Olympic gold medal winner, Rebecca Adlington OBE.
Rebecca was joined by former World and Commonwealth Champion swimmer, Mark Foster, as well as a host of fellow Olympians including Adele Carlsen, Vicki Lucass, Fran Clayton Craig Figes and Adam Whitehead.
The event was hosted by 2004 Olympic bronze medalist, Steve Parry, who is a familiar face and voice on the BBC’s sports commentating team.
The swimmers treated youngsters to an hour of expert tuition, which started with a taste of Victorian-styled swimming lessons where demonstrations were given wearing oil drums as buoyancy aids and key swimming strokes were practiced on dry land.
The young swimmers were then brought back to the 21st century to enjoy a rare opportunity to learn skills from Olympians, including synchronized swimming, water polo and speed swimming.
To help set the scene, the athletes sported Victorian swimwear to show how the fashion in costumes has changed dramatically over the years.
“The Victorian swimming lesson is not about finding the next Olympic swimmer in St Albans – nice though that would be! This event will give the school children a very memorable swimming lesson as they get a sense of how Victorian children learned to swim before learning new skills from some of Britain’s best athletes. Swimming is a key life skill, I think every child should have the chance to learn to swim, which is why I am working with Everyone Active to raise awareness of the importance of lessons.”
The day is also about raising awareness of the continued need for quality school swimming lessons. While there has been a vast improvement since Victorian times, recent Swim England statistics suggest there is still a long way to go:
- Last year’s school swimming survey showed that only 55% of children aged between 7 and 11 could swim 25 metres unaided
- Around 1,300 schools in the UK do not offer school swimming provision at Key Stage 2 (aged 7-11), which is a major contributing factor to around 200,000 children leaving primary school each year unable to swim.
- One in five UK adults can’t swim
- 40% of parents are simply unaware of their child’s progress or ability regarding water safety and swimming.
Swim England will be releasing the findings from its latest research at the 125th Anniversary event, which are expected to show that swimming lessons must remain a priority for schools.
“Swimming is such an important lifesaving skill and gateway sport that we must ensure it remains a priority for schools. We all need to work together – central and local government, schools and leisure centres – to ensure that primary schools have access to high quality swimming lesson provision so that all children learn to swim and are able to continue to enjoy the water throughout their lives.”
“This event will be a timely reminder of the importance of teaching children how to swim from an early age. As a company we are committed to our school swimming programme and as Swim England Operator of the Year we are among the leading providers of lessons in the UK. As well as the health and sporting opportunities swimming brings people of all ages and abilities, it is a life skill that cannot and should not be overlooked: we must safeguard our swimming lessons and continue to keep them at the forefront of our minds.”