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Swimming lessons applications hit record levels as pools reopen

Children got back into the pool for a while last year in Aberdeen, but lockdown struck again
Children got back into the pool for a while last year in Aberdeen, but lockdown struck again

Applications for swimming lessons have hit record levels as pools begin to open up after the pandemic.

Swimming is by far the most popular extra-curricular activity for children, and seen as crucial by parents.

And as kids take to the water again for the first time in over a year, swimming instructors have allayed fears over the impact of a ‘lost’ year.

There has been a slight regression with some swimmers, and confidence has been an issue for the youngest age groups upon returning to the pool.

However, instructors said there were no long-lasting effects of Covid.

Popularity of lessons soars

What has changed is the popularity of lessons.

Although they did not release figures, officials said that applications have gone through the roof since the end of lockdown, reaching more than double the previous high in Aberdeenshire alone.

Physical distancing requirements mean that swimming programmes are not currently running at pre-Covid capacity, but signs are encouraging that more kids will get back in the water during the summer.

In Aberdeen, the Learn to Swim programme, run by Sport Aberdeen, offers lessons for children of all ages and abilities.

Before the pandemic, it delivered more than 900 classes per week to 5,500 swimmers across 10 city venues, in addition to a school swimming programme involving more than 2,000 primary school pupils each year.

Lessons are currently back up and running at two venues, Tullos Swimming Pool and the Beach Leisure Centre.

Swimming lessons are up and running again at Aberdeen’s Beach Leisure Centre.

Programmes at these venues have been revised to maximise the number of lessons, however given the reduced number of venues, currently only around 2,500 swimmers can be accommodated.

Dianne Breen, Sport Aberdeen’s programme manager, said: “We are thrilled that swimming lessons have reactivated in two of our venues, however we do have a significant waiting list of new applicants.

“There are currently no confirmed dates as to when lessons are permitted to restart in the seven additional pools which are connected to education facilities, however we are working closely with Aberdeen City Council to facilitate this as soon as it is safe and practical to do so.”

She added: “We have seen a small amount of regression in swimmers returning but less than had been anticipated, which is brilliant.

“The feedback we have received has been really positive, and shows that parents recognise the importance of leaning to swim as a lifelong skill and are looking to prioritise this where possible.”

‘Unprecedented applications’

Meanwhile in Aberdeenshire, Live Life Aberdeenshire is currently delivering 3,000 swimming lessons a week, around 30% of the usual programme.

Live Life Aberdeenshire’s lead officer for swimming development, Gary Paterson, said: “In terms of swimming proficiency, of the 3,000 weekly participants we have not noted any significant drop in proficiency.

“All swimmers returned to their pre-lockdown class level and have remained there.

“There was a noted drop in confidence for the youngest participants when returning, but within one or two lessons confidence was restored.”

He added: “We have seen unprecedented applications for new members – monthly applications for April have more than doubled our previous high.”

Anecdotally, parents have rushed to make applications for swimming lessons in the Highlands too.

Moray Leisure Centre in Elgin.

Claire Taylor, swimming lessons co-ordinator at Moray Leisure Centre in Elgin, said there shouldn’t be kids ‘slipping through the net’.

“Our lessons are available to children right up until the age of 16, providing ample time for the children to catch up with their swimming,” she said.

“The children who have come back to lessons are all really happy to be back, and we are finding that most children don’t have too much work to do to get back to the level they were at pre-lockdown.

“We are delighted to have the children back in the water – learning to swim is such an important life skill to have.”

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