Memorandum submitted by the Amateur Swimming
THE SPORT OF SWIMMING
1. Founded in 1869, the Amateur Swimming
Association (ASA) is the governing body for the sport of swimming,
open water swimming, diving, synchronised swimming and water polo
in England and is the largest of the constituent members of the
Amateur Swimming Federation of Great Britain.
2. The ASA employs 100 people throughout
England, 40 of whom are directly involved in the development of
the sport and all provide support to the volunteers. It has 1,554
clubs with a total registered membership in excess of 159,000
and provides a structure for competition from age group to masters
in all the disciplines of the sport.
3. In addition to providing a structure
for competition, the ASA supports a programme aimed at improving
the nation's swimming skills, training around 12,000 teachers
and coaches each year and operating an award scheme which recognises
achievement in swimming from the very young first learning to
swim to senior citizens swimming for health. One million seven
hundred and fifty thousand badges and certificates are attained
through this scheme each year.
4. The ASA has a strong tradition in giving
leadership and help to disabled swimmers. This was reflected in
the success of swimmers in the Sydney Paralympics when British
swimmers won 50 per cent of the medals.
5. The ASA considers that all local authorities
should produce a written Swimming Strategy, which addresses the
swimming needs of all the community, the facility requirements
to meet these needs and links into Cultural and Education Strategies.
6. Swimming is the nation's most popular
physical sporting activity with almost 22 per cent of adults and
50 per cent of children taking part. Around 12 million people
swim regularly. The ability to swim is the key to providing the
opportunity to take part in a host of other water-based activities
where swimming is a pre-requisite either in relation to the activity
itself or in making participation safer. It also helps to develop
a healthy lifestyle.
7. This high uptake of swimming is despite
ageing, and in some places a complete lack of facilities. Indeed
there is a latent demand for swimming which has been demonstrated
where facilities have been either replaced or refurbished, often
as a result of a contribution from the Sports Lottery Fund, and
overall attendances have increased in the area. Indeed this is
the case in Manchester where the use of the Aquatic Centre has
exceeded forecasts but attendances in existing surrounding facilities
have not reduced.
8. The purpose of a coherent strategy for
swimming produced by local authorities and involving local education
authorities and other agencies which have input into swimming
is to give a wider range of opportunities to sections of the community
which have limited opportunity to swim and to provide opportunity
for talented youngsters whose aim is to develop their skills to
international standard. The strategy can encourage the use of
swimming pools as an aid towards improving the health and wellbeing
of the nation.
9. The ASA has produced teaching and development
plans which aim to ensure high standards of teaching and coaching.
To assist local authorities and in a bid to remove the fragmented
and piecemeal approach to swimming by clubs, which sometimes happens
in a local authority area, the ASA has introduced "Swim 21"
a programme of assessment which provides a structured approach
and encourages clubs to work closely with local authorities and
local education authorities. To assist local authorities further,
the ASA has a network of Development Officers whose remit is to
work closely with local authorities and further links are being
established through the Active Sport Programme introduced by Sport
England and which includes swimming as a major activity.
10. The ASA believes that pools which have
architectural or historic significance may have a role to play
within the swimming strategy of a local authority area and can
complement more modern facilities and meet some, although not
all the needs, of various sections of a local community. Redevelopment
of historic swimming pools may be costly and higher than developing
new facilities. Additional funding should be provided via the
Heritage Lottery Fund.
11. In the retention of historic swimming
pools, whilst every effort should be made to maintain the design
as at the time at which they were built, care has to be taken
that pools are upgraded to meet current health and safety standards
and that they can be operated within reasonable cost parameters.
12. Apart from a few specialist buildings,
swimming facilities should be built to meet the overall needs
of the community in which they are located. However their design
should be flexible and where necessary incorporate moveable floors
and bulkheads which will allow varying needs, including the teaching
of swimming, recreational swimming and swimming training and competition,
to be met.
13. Of major concern is the age of the swimming
pool stock, with more than 50 per cent of public pools being 20
or more years old. Because of the heavy use and aggressive nature
of the swimming pool environment many of these require considerable
investment either in terms of refurbishment or, in the case of
older pools, replacement. A recently undertaken study of Scottish
pools revealed a need for an investment of some £554 million
over the period 1998-20 for 338 pools. Based upon this study an
investment of around, £2 billion may be required for public
pools in England.
14. There is no reason to believe that pools
built on school sites are any better placed in terms of their
need for investment and there are indications that in recent years
a number of school pools have been closed, not to be replaced,
having reached the end of their economic life.
15. All school children at key stages 1
and 2 should have access to swimming tuition. Children between
years one and six should have two opportunities to learn to swim
with each opportunity having 30 sessions of swimming with a minimum
contact time of each sessions of 30 minutes and that this should
be backed up by a minimum of 10 hours of water safety tuition
which can be classroom based in order to meet the standards of
the National Curriculum.
16. The OFSTED report into school swimming,
based upon an inspection carried out in November 1999, indicated
that, whilst overall 80 per cent of pupils could swim 25 metres
at the end of Key Stage 2, in inner city areas and those areas
with a high level of deprivation based upon the free school meals
indicator this was reduced to just over two thirds and in a minority
of schools water safety and survival was not covered sufficiently
well. Additionally half of schools surveyed did not have a policy
of provision for pupils who are non-swimmers or reluctant swimmers.
There could be an opportunity for those children who have failed
to meet the National Curriculum standard to be provided with a
further opportunity after completion of their SATS examination
to achieve the standard through an intensive course.
17. The provision of school swimming is
an entitlement of all children and local education authorities
should produce a swimming strategy. The strategy should identify
facility needs, transportation issues and seek to overcome those
factors which the OFSTED report indicates are a barrier to school
swimming: cost and the availability of qualified instructors familiar
with National Curriculum principles. The ASA is well placed to
deliver training to school teachers and swimming teachers through
its CPD programme but this will require funding.
18. There is an opinion amongst organisations
which have an interest in water safety, and this is subscribed
to by the ASA, that there is a lack of a strategic approach to
569 people drowned in the UK in 1999,
one more than in 1998. Whilst this rate of 0.96 per 100,000 population
is an improvement compared to 1.17 in 1983, this is still too
there is a very concerning increase
in the number of children under 14 who drowneda rise from
36 in 1998 to 54 in 1999; and
a preventative strategy through education
of the whole of the community is needed.
19. Whilst the provision of an adequate
network of facilities is important, equally significant is the
way pools are programmed in terms of providing time and opportunity
for the various groups which go to make up a community and how
they are managed. In recent years there have been many examples
of proactive management which seeks to optimise the use of facilities
by programming and in so doing increasing their viability and
giving opportunity to all sectors of the local community. A number
of these innovations in programming have helped to promote inclusion
and have offered swimming as a means to the promotion of good
20. Some local authorities have gone further
than just improving timing and opportunity and have also considered
affordability by offering free swimming for children. Three examples
are Glasgow, Torfaen where the scheme is linked to library membership
and Nuneaton, whilst a number of local authorities promote family
swimming with concessionary rates for family groups and many provide
swimming at a reduced charge for the unemployed.
21. All Local Authorities should provide
training and competition facilities within their area within a
planned swimming programme at an appropriate time and at affordable
costs in order that the voluntary sector, in the form of swimming
clubs can deliver their contribution towards the swimming experience.
22. The requirements at the lower end of
the competitive swimming continuum in terms of pool design and
size are no different from those required to meet the general
requirements of the swimming community and most can be met by
the provision of 25 metre pools which are suitable for basic training
23. There should be pathways from learning
to swim through to its clubs who can provide for the development
of swimmers and guide them into the most appropriate disciplines
of the sport in accordance with their abilities such as competitive
swimming, diving, synchronised swimming, water polo and open water
24. The obstacles to the development of
the young swimmer and the work of the voluntary swimming club
are firstly the opportunity for young swimmers to train at appropriate
times and secondly the costs to clubs in hiring facilities which
have increased enormously in recent years. It is significant that
in relation to major sports it is only in swimming where children
who have the ability and talent to develop in the sport have to
make do with early morning training at times when most people
are still asleep. It is also true that clubs who have a commitment
to the development of swimmers are finding it increasingly difficult
to meet hiring charges and this has led to a number of clubs either
curtailing their activities significantly or disappearing completely.
One of the other effects of the high hiring charges is upon those
children who come from less well off families and who find it
increasingly difficult to meet the costs of training, travel and
25. In terms of competition facilities,
each county and large conurbation should have a minimum of one
eight lane x 25 metre competition pool which will serve for competition
up to county level.
26. If British swimming is to prosper at
international level there is a need for a network of 50 metre
pools throughout Britain. It is acknowledged that we are significantly
under-provided with 50 metre facilities. In stating the case for
50 metre facilities, ASA recognise that only a small number of
local authorities and other organisations are able to meet the
capital costs of this type of facility. Nevertheless it is recommended
that Sport England and ASA should work with local authorities
and others in partnership to deliver a minimum of two 50 metre
facilities each year for the next 10 years. In the main these
facilities would be in areas which have a suitable supporting
population or in Universities or other institutions. Even with
such a programme there would still be fewer 50 metre pools in
the whole of the UK than there are in the Greater Paris area and
only just over a third of the total number of 50 metre pools in
27. There is only one major competition
pool in the whole of the UK, in Sheffield, and even this does
not meet full international standards as it does not have a 50
metre warm up and swim down facility. It is acknowledged that
London has very poor swimming provision; it needs a minimum of
four new 50 metre pools of which Crystal Palace, suitably refurbished,
would provide one. One of these pools could be a major international
facility built on similar lines to Sheffield but with a 50 metre
warm up and swim down facility and this would provide a complementary
facility for the Olympic Games.
28. The ASA does not recommend that a 50
metre swimming pool to meet Olympic and World Championship requirements
be constructed with the 20,000 capacity, which is now needed.
However, it is considered that when one of the 50 metre pools
within London is planned it should be in close proximity to an
exhibition hall or open space that could be converted with modern
technology to a "bolt up" prefabricated temporary 50
metre pool with temporary seating and ancillary facilities that
could meet the Olympic and World Championship requirements. Indeed
this concept was successfully demonstrated at the recently held
World Championships in Fukuoka in Japan in effect taking the swimming
facilities to the arena.
29. There is a deep frustration within swimming
that Olympic success, in the form of gold medal winners, comes
only occasionally. However, swimming is hindered by a significant
lack of 50 metre pools and, until the advent of the Lottery, it
was impossible to produce a coherent strategy and swimming relied
upon voluntary efforts through clubs and a few local authorities
which were prepared to fund swimming squads.
30. The Lottery provided the necessary finances
to produce a strategy for success but, based upon experience elsewhere
in the world, it has always been long term. Australia, the strongest
swimming nation in terms of population, considered that 12 years
is necessary to achieve fruition once all the components are in
place. Nevertheless under the guidance of the present National
Performance Director we are hopeful that a significant improvement
over the performance in Sydney will be shown in the Athens Olympics
in 2004. We are encouraged in this view by the performance in
the World Championships in Fukuoka this summer, when the team
won one gold, two silver and four bronze medals.
31. However, in terms of financial resources
there is still an under-funding of elite swimming compared to
the world's leading swimming nations and, although it is coming,
there is the need to develop the culture of excellence.
32. The ASA believes that all new swimming
facilities should be constructed on the basis of a Swimming Strategy
and that they should be designed to meet the needs detailed in
the swimming development plan for an area.
33. When pools are built, they should, where
appropriate, incorporate in their design moveable bulkheads and
floors and discrete water areas that allow maximum flexibility
of use and programming. Pools should also be managed proactively
to encourage swimming and operate within a structured programme
which ensures opportunity for all the local community.
34. Sport and swimming can deliver so much
for the communityfun, exercise, health, a route out of
poverty and away from crime and drugs. Whilst the investment from
the Lottery has helped there is a need to invest far more into
sport and sporting facilities. Part of this investment needs to
be targeted at the volunteer clubs who are well placed to deliver
27 November 2001