An upset Linslade swimming club has already gained 1,500 signatures on its petition to stop Stevenage Leisure from “taking over” its lessons.
The Crusaders Swimming Club was informed by Stevenage Leisure (SLL), which operates Tiddenfoot in conjunction with Central Bedfordshire Council, that it will not allow the club to run lessons for children below Level 5 of their programme from January 1, 2019.
The Crusaders, who have been teaching children to swim for 36 years, are now on a mission to protect their “popular and well regarded Learn to Swim programme”, which has taught thousands of children in the town to swim.
A Crusaders Swimming Club spokeswoman wrote to the LBO, claiming: “Stevenage Leisure (SLL), are demanding to take over all our ‘Learn to Swim’ lessons for children up to level 5.
“The current group of Learn to Swim families greatly value the smaller class sizes and high quality tuition provided by the programme where they feel their children get more individual attention.
“They are extremely concerned that they will lose the right to choose where their child learns to swim. Across the three sessions that the Club runs, up to 100 children could be at risk of losing their swimming classes.
“This is at time when demand for swimming lessons within the town already outstrips capacity with SLL having a waiting list of over 100 children and Crusaders itself another 40 children.”
They also alleged that the “monopolisation” would cause huge waiting lists for SLL classes, cause the Crusaders to lose money, and place financial pressure on parents; Crusaders Learn to Swim lessons are £12 per month, whereas the AquaEd lessons are £22.50 per month.
The spokeswoman for the Crusaders Swimming Club, added: “Crusaders is very much a family orientated organisation and the Learn to Swim sessions are staffed by a small and very dedicated team of volunteer teachers who, having learnt to swim through the programme themselves, or who have had children or grandchildren who have swum with the Club, now work to put something back into their community.
“Many young people, having learnt to swim with Crusaders and having progressed through the sessions to swim competitively, have then taken their own teaching qualifications enabling them to develop the next generation of swimmers.
“The changes mean the clubs will lose a natural flow through of swimmers into the competitive swimming squads, and Swim England loses potential development of swimmers.”
A Central Bedfordshire Council spokeswoman, said: “We are still offering swim lessons. In fact, we are adjusting the pool timetable at Tiddenfoot and will be running more lesson sessions so that there are more opportunities for people to learn to swim. Our lessons are taught by qualified staff and meet national standards. The price reflects that. Those moving over from the club lessons will be eligible to pay us a reduced fee for an initial time period, in recognition of the difference in fees.”
Leighton Buzzard Swimming Club will also be affected. More on this story to follow.