More than 500 Western Isles children are learning to swim thanks to a successful partnership between Scottish Swimming, Scottish Water and local Aquatic Providers.
Children from across the region - some as young as babies - have signed up to the Learn to Swim programme which aims to create a new generation of safe and confident swimmers.
Lessons have been run at six pools in the Western Isles – which has allowed around 582 kids to come through the programme in the last three years.
Across Scotland, 39 Leisure Trusts and Aquatic Providers, covering more than 170 pools, have provided lessons to nearly 106,000 kids over the three years, smashing the target of reaching 100,000 three months ahead of schedule.
Scots pool hero Duncan Scott, the Learn to Swim programme ambassador, who is in hard training for Olympic trials, praised the success of the partnership.
Duncan, a multi Olympic, World, Commonwealth and European medal winner, said: “As someone who loves beating records, it is amazing to see that the programme has not only reached its target – it has smashed it.
“Getting children into the pool so that they can have fun while learning how to stay safe is the number one priority. It would be amazing to see children become interested in taking a love for swimming further.
“Whether they simply become regulars at the pool with their friends or whether this inspires the next generation of competitive swimmers who could one day represent Scotland or GB at the Olympics, nothing but good things can come from encouraging more and more children into the water.”
The Learn to Swim programme is part of Scottish Swimming’s National Framework for Swimming in Scotland, an initiative which aims to provide quality environments for children to learn to swim. Scottish Water’s decision to form a three-year partnership with Scottish Swimming has been instrumental in allowing the Framework to be rolled out across Scotland more quickly than planned.
Tony Wade, Sports Facilities Services Manager in the Western Isles, said: “We are delighted to be part of the national success story that is Scottish Swimming’s ‘Learn to Swim’ programme. Our swim teachers receive annual training updates as part of our Framework agreement with Scottish Swimming which ensures our staff teach utilising the most up to date techniques. This ensures our island youngsters can optimally develop this critical life skill.”
The Learn to Swim Framework is aimed at youngsters from birth to 11-years-old and provides consistently high-quality teaching at least once a week and which progresses through a series of lessons and levels over a number of years.
A key focus has been the drive to encourage more children with disabilities into mainstream swimming lessons, particularly through Scottish Swimming’s #SeeMyAbility campaign.
To underline that commitment, Toni Shaw, who won six medals at the recent World Para Swimming Championships, has been appointed as the programme’s second Ambassador – joining Duncan Scott.
Euan Lowe, Scottish Swimming chief executive officer, said: “When we set the ambitious 100,000 target three years ago we were unsure when we would reach it, so, to achieve this ahead of the deadline – and some 6% ahead of target – is a terrific achievement and one that everyone connected with the programme should be proud of.
“The partnership with Scottish Water means we are reaching more children than ever before and have been able to support the Western Isles by offering additional resources, enhancing the quality learn to swim experience the children and young people have. I’d like to thank Scottish Water for their ongoing support and the Western Isles who deliver the lessons each week in the local area.
“It is thrilling to see our common goals of equipping children with the skills they need to be safe in and around water are really starting to have an impact.”
Brian Lironi, Director of External Communications with Scottish Water, said: “It is staggering to think that there are now 106,000 young people who now have the chance to learn to swim and benefit from this nationwide programme.
“We want to support a flourishing Scotland and the Learn to Swim programme is a shining example of that – encouraging children to be safe and confident in and around water at the same time as having fun.
“We are also delighted to see that so many children with disabilities are coming through the programme, underlining that there should be no barriers to all young people learning to swim.”
More information on the National Learn to Swim Framework and #SeeMyAbility can be found on the dedicated website: www.learntoswim.scot