Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Second Report


(a)Sport in general has been recognised as beneficial to the nation's wellbeing and health. Swimming is uniquely beneficial across the whole of society, and as the country's most popular sporting activity it merits appropriate investment (paragraph 13).
(b)The Government should recognise the unique society-wide benefits of swimming and reflect this in its sporting strategies. Reference to swimming within an overall plan for sport is no substitute for a specific strategy on swimming. It would be of little value for the Government to welcome this Report while failing to back up encouraging noises with specific action such as dedicated funding being made available to local authorities for their swimming pools (paragraph 17).
(c)This policy, while rewarding success at international competitions, ignores the possibility that low levels of achievement might be best tackled by long-term investment rather than punitive cuts (paragraph 20).
(d)Duncan Goodhew told us that Learn to Swim schemes often had a "tick box" attitude, with contractors having no financial incentive to achieve more than the bare minimum of 25 metres swum by each child. He suggested that the definition of "being able to swim" needed reconsideration. We agree and consider that teaching children to swim, but only just, may in fact create a hazardous false confidence (paragraph 24).
(e)As Sharron Davies told the Committee, "it is terribly important that all children learn to swim in schools; therefore they can then be encouraged to go to the clubs ... to bring them through to be elite athletes or just maintain them as regular competing youngsters who want to be with other athletes". The pressures on schools in urban areas to provide funding for transport to suitable facilities has led to a failure of some schools to meet National Curriculum requirements on swimming and water safety (paragraph 27).
(f)Evidence from the historic pools campaigns confirms that closures of community-based pools have led to swimming being taken off the curriculum altogether in some cases. With the current rate of drowning increasing among the under-14s, water safety and the ability to swim should be considered more important than ever. We believe that it should be a key point of Government policy on sport and education that every child should have the opportunity, and access to facilities, to learn to swim (paragraph 28).
(g)Unless existing community pools are refurbished and the facilities improved, more affluent swimmers will be drawn away to private leisure pools and take with them valuable revenue. More local authorities need to develop strategies to enable them to make efficient assessments of the needs of their facilities, and should work with the regional directors of ASA funded for this purpose. Local authority swimming pool managers should concentrate on drawing up successful programming of facilities to enable the whole community to swim, rather than being forced to give priority to funding issues. Sport England should be provided with more funding to enable local authorities to fulfil their strategies for the modernisation of their neglected pools (paragraph 37).
(h)Pools are an amenity which are used by young, old, disabled and ethnic minorities alike who would be discouraged from swimming by travelling further afield to modern facilities (paragraph 42).
(i)Historic pools represent a valuable part of the UK's heritage. The priority afforded to them needs to be assessed sensitively and carefully within the context of total provision across the relevant community (including transport issues, potential usage, importance in terms of social history and architectural quality). We cannot ignore the realities of budgetary constraints, but imaginative and creative funding solutions should be sought in consultation with the local community. Currently, English Heritage cannot afford to help significantly with the funding of the refurbishment of historic pools. The Committee believes there is a case for more resources from the Heritage Lottery Fund being made available to historic pools for this purpose. Historic pools should also be looked at from the point of view of social regeneration or preventing social degeneration. The Government should reconsider how such facilities can be developed to support deprived areas. It should also take steps to seek to relieve them of the burden of VAT on repair and renovation (paragraph 51).
(j)Whilst existing 25 metre pools need to be modernised, there appears to be a case for investing in 50 metre pools which can be used by a whole county for swimming. With efficient programming and the use of moveable floors and bulkheads, pools can be altered during a day to serve the whole community. New 50 metre pools and refurbishment of existing pools need investment, but whilst the structure of the sport remains based on swimming clubs and associations feeding through future medalists they need to have water space and the time to train. We cannot complain when swimming prowess becomes scarce and stars like Sharron Davies, Duncan Goodhew and Anita Lonsbrough arise despite the system rather than because of it. Anita Lonsbrough told the Committee "Sport is not as we knew it ... It is now a business; and we have not invested enough in our business." (paragraph 57).

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