The future of two Leighton-Linslade swimming clubs’ ‘Level 5 and under’ lessons still hangs in the balance.
The tide could be changing for Leighton-Linslade swimming clubs as Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) and Stevenage Leisure (SLL) have proposed to take over lessons for young children.
Linslade Crusaders Swimming Club and Leighton Buzzard Swimming Club, who practise at Tiddenfoot, have both been informed that as of January CBC and SLL are proposing to run all lessons for those at Level 5 and under.
However, upon hearing the news, Linslade Crusaders started a petition that has so far reached over 1,710 signatures in a bid to keep running their own ‘Learn To Swim’ sessions and keep their beloved club family together.
The club is also “really disappointed” with the reasons CBC/SLL have given for the take over [see below] and say the arguments are “impractical”.
A Linslade Crusaders spokesman, claimed: “Parents currently have a choice of where to send their children but this will be taken away.
“With regards to swimming clubs they are not currently consistent across the county; they have different cost structures and pool availability, plus all the pools are different. We struggle to understand why CBC/SLL have chosen to use consistency [as an argument for change].
“Our swim lessons meet the national standards and are all taught by qualified teachers and coaches with additional support from older swimmers who are also often qualified coaches.”
Finances and Options
Meanwhile, the club claimed that CBC/SLL do not intend to offer one extra hour of Learn To Swim, but that they will just be fitting extra lanes into current times, and not offering extra places - only adding to the length of waiting lists.
Additionally, the club expressed serious concerns that Tiddenfoot’s full rate £22.50 (per month) compared to the Linslade Crusaders’s rate £12 (per month) would cause children to lose out, arguing that some parents will not be able to afford the cost even with any discount CBC/SLL offer.
The club has also been offered extra hours (6am-8am), as well as opportunities for galas, but it says that the times are too early for many children and that Tiddenfoot isn’t equipped for galas.
Leighton Buzzard Swimming Club
The other club affected is Leighton Buzzard Swimming Club. A spokeswoman said: “Leighton Buzzard Swimming Club is in ongoing discussions with CBC and SLL to find a solution that is in the best interest of our Club’s youngest members and for the long term future of our Club.
“LBSC has been in existence for nearly 100 years introducing and providing competitive swimming opportunities for the local community at all levels up to a national level. Our aim is to continue to be around for many more years and we remain optimistic about finding a positive outcome.”
The Linslade Crusaders spokesman, concluded: “You can imagine the scenario where ourselves and LB Swim Club have to try and compete for eight to 10 year olds as they finish their swim school: this would not be healthy.
“We’ve been doing this for 36 years with no issue from Swim England (who we are accredited with) and our lessons are fully compliant with their standards.
“To quote Swim England: ‘Clubs are the backbone of swimming. They provide opportunities to learn how to swim, develop skills and swim socially’.”
Both clubs have appointments to meet the council this week.
A Central Bedfordshire Council spokeswoman, said: “We want to encourage more people at all levels to get into swimming. We believe that the swimming clubs still have a vital role to play in nurturing talented competitive swimmers, and they can still use the pool at Tiddenfoot for this purpose.
“We are making these changes because we want to have one consistent approach to swimming lessons across all of our leisure centres, with lessons which meet the standards and curriculum of the national body, Swim England. Tiddenfoot is the last of our leisure centre sites to make this adjustment.
“We are adjusting the pool timetable at Tiddenfoot and will be running more sessions to increase the number of children able to take our swimming lessons. This will make room for the children moving over from the club lessons, and for others on the waiting list.
“Those moving over from the club lessons will be eligible for reduced fees for three months. After that, they will move to the standard price, unless they are low-income families. Low-income families will pay a lower reduced fee for a longer six-month period. Their fee will then move to our standard concessionary price for such families. Importantly, fees include free unlimited swimming to allow the child to practise and gain confidence in the water.
“To support the clubs, they have been offered 12 hours extra pool time to help them to grow and develop their competitive swimming. The clubs have also been offered access to the pool at free or reduced hire prices, so that they can run additional club galas to help them raise income.
“If parents want their child to learn to swim, they already have a wide choice. There are a number of private lessons run from pools across the area. Parents can choose those other lessons, or the lessons at Tiddenfoot Leisure Centre run by our contractor. The swimming club does hire other pools and could choose to run their own lessons from those pools if they wish.”
However, commenting on the council’s last point, the Linslade Crusaders spokesman claimed: “This is contradictory to them using standards and Swim England as a reason for this. What they are saying is that its OK to run the lessons as long as not at our pool. Tiddenfoot has a variable base small pool which is ideal for learn to swim and building childrens confidence. We only hire other pools because Tiddenfoot can’t give us pool time.”