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Swim Start Project launched!

Categories
Swimming, Education
Levels
National
Region
National

Swim Wales has launched the Early Years Swim Start project, funded by the Welsh Government’s Winter of Wellbeing programme. The initiative will provide babies and young children from disadvantaged areas of Wales the opportunity to learn to swim.

In collaboration with Flying Start and 23 facility operators across the nation, the Early Years Swim Start project will provide swimming and aquatic opportunities for babies, toddlers and their responsible adults. This project aims to facilitate taster sessions to encourage people into local swimming facilities and provide subsidised blocks of lessons to start their aquatic journey, to develop skills for life and potentially lifesaving skills to enable them to enjoy being physically active in, on and around water.

The Swim Start project will continue to drive the Swim Wales vision of ‘Aquatics for everyone for life’ by improving the equality of access to Early Years swimming opportunities across Wales. As part of the Swim Start project, Swim Wales are providing training and equipment to operators to enable the delivery of free taster sessions for those families hit hard by the pandemic. Wales has the highest rate of child poverty of any nation in the UK, with almost a third of children in Wales finding themselves living in poverty. This project aims to facilitate taster sessions to encourage people into local swimming facilities and provide subsidised blocks of lessons to start their aquatic journey, to develop skills for life and potentially lifesaving skills to enable them to enjoy being physically active in, on and around water.

Babies and toddlers born during the pandemic who have not had the same opportunity to access water will now have the chance to develop key skills; followed up by a voucher system to enable access to a block of lessons at a reduced cost.

Deputy Minister for Social Services, Julie Morgan, said: “We all want to build on the success of the Summer of Fun and continue to provide support for children and young people across Wales. Swimming is a vital skill for children and I am delighted the Winter of Wellbeing is able to support swimming taster sessions. I hope these sessions will encourage families to explore swimming lessons at their local leisure centre or pool. Working together with Swim Wales, children from across Wales can benefit from these fun sessions.”

Children in Wales Policy Officer Anna Westall said: “A child’s experiences in their first days, weeks and years significantly impact the rest of their lives. Therefore, it is great to see this project prioritising the needs of babies and young children; offering them and their family’s new opportunities and experiences in their local community; and in turn increasing their confidence and safety in the water. It supports many Children’s Rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) such as the right to play, join groups and supporting their healthy physical and mental development”

National Learn to Swim Manager, Hanna Guise said: “We are delighted that so many pools across Wales are supporting the Swim Start project. One of the many positives of swimming is how inclusive it is as an activity, sport or hobby and our new Early Years frameworks help provide more opportunities for babies and young children to have a positive and fun introduction to water, as well as provide opportunities for wider physical literacy development, socialisation and bonding experiences with accompanying adults. We are excited to work Flying Start and the operators across Wales to help and support them in further developing their Early Years swimming opportunities as part of this project and beyond.”

Hywel Evans, Aquatic Development Manager for Freedom Leisure in Wales and Derbyshire, said: “Freedom Leisure are extremely proud to work in partnership with Swim Wales to deliver the Early Years Swim Start project, supported by the Welsh Government Winter of Wellbeing fund. It is a fantastic opportunity for us to collaborate and continue to work towards the Swim Wales vision of ‘Aquatics for Everyone for Life’. Creating opportunities for the children of lower income families and harder to engage groups to access the aquatic environment.

“This project will further enhance our Early Years offer across our pools and the communities we serve.”

For parents and carers in the following areas looking for swimming lessons for babies and young children, please contact your local operator or Flying Start team for more information. Participating operators are listed below.

Anglesey County CouncilCaerphilly Sport and Leisure ServicesBETTER Cardiff - GLLCardiff International PoolWater babies (Cardiff)Calon Tysul - CeridigionCeredigion County CouncilConwyAura Wales - FlintshireByw'n Iach - GwyneddOlympia Swimming - GwyneddNewport LivePembrokeshire LeisureFreedom PowysRiverside International Caravan Park - Powys RCT CouncilSouth Whales Swim School Ltd - RCTFreedom SwanseaWater Babies (Swansea)Torfaen Leisure TrustLegacy Leisure - ValeFreedom WrexhamPlas Madoc - Wrexham 

More information on the Swim Wales Early Years programme

Swim Wales promotes the introduction of babies and young children to the aquatic environment. The introduction of babies and young children to a swimming pool should be safe, positive, fun and progressive to promote a lifelong love of the water. Being confident in and around water from a young age, not only has significant developmental benefits it also establishes water safety awareness which ultimately has an influence on the wider safety of the population of Wales.

Bubbles provides a fully supported introduction to the aquatic environment for babies and young children with an accompanying adult, specifically aimed at children aged 0-3 years. There are 4 levels of progression in Bubbles, with aquatic skills progressively developing throughout each level. Responsible adults are taught how to support and aid the child through games, songs and themed fun activities. A certificate is available for successfully completing each level.

Splash encourages a young child’s increasingly independent and guided discovery of the aquatic environment to develop water confidence, specifically aimed at children aged 3+. There are 6 levels of progression in Splash, with aquatic skills progressively developing throughout each level, with the child being increasingly independent in the water. Splash is recommended to be delivered in two ways; either starting at 3+ years old with a teacher in the water teaching up to 6 children, or for Splash 1 and 2 it can be delivered in the same format as Bubbles with a responsible adult accompanying each child. This allows for younger children who may progress more quickly through the programme due to starting their aquatic learning early and developing water confidence to not be held up in the system.