Posted: Fri 26th Apr 2024

Cardiff children ‘worst in Wales’ for learning to swim, says leisure manager /

A leisure manager in Cardiff says she is “saddened” by figures showing the city is the worst performing area in Wales for children learning to swim.
Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) partnership manager Joanne Smith made her comments at a Cardiff Council economy and culture scrutiny committee meeting on Tuesday, April 23.
Just 16% of children in Cardiff can swim, according to data collected by Cardiff Metropolitan University and Swim Wales, and only 57% of primary schools in the city sent pupils to swimming lessons in 2022-23.
Scrutiny committee member, Cllr Catriona Brown-Reckless, said she was “shocked” by the figures and added she would like to see more people using leisure centres in Cardiff.
“Sometimes when I have have gone to them, they have seemed more on the quiet side,” she said.
“I think it [swimming] is such an important thing that children get to do… could more be done with local schools to get more children in the pools during term time as part of their… curriculum?”
Levels of swimming ability are assessed against the Nofio Ysgol School Swimming and Water Safety standard.
Cardiff’s figures are significantly lower than the Welsh average, which is 41%.
In reference to Cardiff’s swimming figures, Ms Smith said: “I find it quite hard to understand”.
GLL, which runs leisure centres in Cardiff, is currently coordinating with a number of other swimming providers to work out how to improve school swimming and boost use during quieter periods.
Ms Smith added: “In Cardiff the way school swimming is delivered is different.
“We have ourselves, GLL, as a provider. We also have the international pool which provides school swimming lessons to Cardiff schools. We also have Cardiff Met and the Urdd… all of us providers are sat around the table.
“We had a meeting about three weeks ago in regards to what we can do. We were all agreed that we want to get the numbers of children in school swimming up.
“Swim Wales and Cardiff Met are actually leading on that trial and… we are going to do some trial clusters [and] engage with the schools.
“It doesn’t help that the curriculum has changed and it no longer states that children have to learn to swim. However, that is the same for all of Wales.”
Data collated by GLL shows membership has increased across its leisure centres between March 2023 and March 2024. However, numbers are down at a number of locations compared with 2019 figures.
Maindy Centre has seen the biggest dip since 2019 with 820 fewer members, followed by Llanishen Leisure Centre with a drop of 545 members.
Cardiff Council officer for venues and culture, Chris Hadfield, said: “There is a big disparity… not only in people swimming, but people living around water ways.
“There is quite a big emphasis on working with partners [and] collaborations to do with water safety and emergency services, which is all part of the mechanism to try and drive people more towards swimming pools.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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