School pulls the plug – no swimming lessons for pupils at Hartlepool centre due to ‘safeguarding issues’

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A PRIMARY school is refusing to allow pupils to take part in swimming lessons at a leisure centre after raising concerns that members of the public were allowed in the water at the same time.

Teachers and parent governors at Throston Primary School expressed safeguarding issues after Hartlepool Borough Council decided to allow members of the public to use the pool and spectator gallery at Mill House Leisure Centre, in Raby Road, while youngsters are receiving lessons.

Amanda O’Connelley, chair of governors at the school, in Flint Walk, said the school had “no choice but to arrange alternative provision elsewhere” after changes to the council’s Learn to Swim initiative came into effect on April 1.

But council bosses say Throston Primary School is the only school in the town to take action, and said safeguarding of children is a “top priority” for the authority.

The council has expressed its disappointment in the decision and says Throston’s governing body was offered a viewing of the new arrangements and given the chance to meet the authority’s assistant director who is responsible for safeguarding.

Letters were sent out to all headteachers of schools in the town taking part in the Learn to Swim programme last month explaining the changes.

A new boom has recently been installed in the pool splitting the facility into two areas. The smaller section will now be used by young beginners while two lanes in the 25m area will be reserved for swimming lessons and the rest of the pool will be open for public swimmers.

The council say only Active Card holders will be allowed in the pool at the same time as lessons are running, and have assured schools that the public will not be sharing changing rooms with the youngsters.

Youngsters at Throston Primary School will still get the chance to take part in swimming lessons, which will now take place in the pools at High Tunstall College of Science and Dyke House Sports and Technology College.

But Mrs O’Connelley said: “After much consideration we have decided not to continue using the Mill House pool for our pupils’ swimming lessons.

“This follows concerns raised by our teachers and parent governors about the council’s decision to allow members of the public to use the pool and the spectator gallery at the same time as our pupils are receiving lessons.

“We feel this is a downgrade of the service provided to us - and one which has been made without fully consulting with us.

“In the light of this - and given that the new arrangement was coming into effect from April 1 - we felt we had no choice but to arrange alternative provision elsewhere, to ensure that our pupils have exclusive and private use of a pool for their swimming lessons.

“Swimming is an important and essential life skill and we are striving to provide the safest, high quality education for our pupils that we possibly can.”

Gill Alexander, Hartlepool Borough Council’s director of child and adult services, said: “The safeguarding of children is a top priority for the council and this is one of the reasons why the recent Ofsted inspection report of Hartlepool’s children’s services is one of the best in the country.

“The arrangements at Mill House pool have been reviewed by the council’s child protection team and the assistant director responsible for safeguarding. Our experts in safeguarding have no concerns about the arrangements.

“Children change in separate, supervised and secure changing rooms and are escorted to and from the pool.

“The arrangements at Mill House are no different to those in other areas of the region and country.

“All schools were offered a viewing of the new pool arrangements by the sport and leisure service and the assistant director responsible for safeguarding offered to meet the governing body to discuss their concerns.

“Unfortunately these offers were not taken up.

“We are therefore disappointed that the governing body has taken this decision without seeking appropriate expert advice.”