Yet, despite this, Swim England still fear that 40 per cent of public pools could shut this decade due to a perfect storm of austerity, Covid and maintenance costs.
Meanwhile new analysis, published today, reveals how provision across Yorkshire compares unfavourably with London and the South East despite investment in facilities such as a new leisure centre in Pontefract or the refurbishment of the Aireborough pool in Leeds where triathlon legends Alistair and Jonny Brownlee learned to swim.
And the public baths where gold-medal winners like Adam Peaty, Duncan Scott and Tom Dean began their sporting careers are also vital if every 11-year-old is to leave primary school with sufficient skills to stay safe in water – a National Curriculum objective.
This is the most important lesson of all – swimming is a life skill and its wider importance to the health and wellbeing of the nation is such that the Government now needs to be working with councils, and others, on how best to develop, and fund, a new generation of pools.
The lives of youngsters depend on this and political leaders should no longer regard this issue as an after-thought; swimming, after all, is on the National Curriculum for a reason and more data on the number of 11-year-olds able to swim needs to be published.
Yet, for this to happen, thousands more qualified coaches also need to be identified and trained to teach children – and also many parents – the rudiments of water safety and perhaps develop swimming’s equivalent of Sure Start to reach out to those youngsters whose parents cannot afford lessons.
Thanks to Team GB’s Olympians, there is a chance to make a difference. It needs to be taken before more pools shut.
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