72% of children with disabilities in mainstream lessons
A NATIONAL diversity and inclusion initiative has reported a record number of children with disabilities enrolled in mainstream swimming lessons in Stirling.
Nearly three-quarters (72%) of children with disabilities who partake in Learn in Swim lessons with Active Stirling are now taking part in mainstream lessons rather than one-to-ones, up from 45% in 2020.
The jump has been hailed to the Learn to Swim’s “See My Ability” campaign, celebrating its fourth year, which sets out to highlight that swimming is for everyone and aims to break down barriers for children with disabilities.
Katie Barr, Learn to Swim Coordinator at Active Stirling said: “Transitioning children from one-on-one swimming lessons to mainstream group lessons has been a positive experience for individuals and teachers. In the lessons, children are actively engaged, building relationships with their peers and growing in confidence.
“Children have transitioned extremely well into group settings and their progression has not got unnoticed. Teachers tailor the needs to everyone involved and their ability to foster a positive and supportive environment provides an excellent learning experience. Overall, it has been extremely beneficial to everyone involved.”
The approach promoted for disability swimming is to assess, allocate and review. This encourages swimming lesson providers to create the best environment available, and if appropriate adapt lessons, to ensure children develop and progress.
In some cases this might require smaller group sessions or additional support, however where possible “See My Ability” encourages providers to include children with disabilities in mainstream lessons to learn with their peers.
Championed by paralympic medal winner Toni Shaw, the “See My Ability” campaign has spearheaded nationwide initiatives to make group swimming lessons accessible for all children and promote inclusion and diversity in the sport – and played a significant role in giving the Leisure Trusts and aquatic providers who deliver Learn to Swim lessons a toolkit to support and help swimming instructors teach in an inclusive way.
Toni Shaw said: “When I was learning to swim, I took part in the mainstream swimming lessons. I absolutely loved them! This was not only a key part in me learning how to swim and be safe in the water, but it also gave me a lot of confidence.
“My swim teachers always made sure I was able to complete the sessions alongside my friends and would always make any necessary adaptions to allow this.
“I have made lifelong friends through these lessons, who I am still friends with today, 10 years on. If I was put into one-to-one lessons, I don’t think I would’ve found the love for swimming I have today, nor the confidence and great friends it has given me.
The skills I learned during these lessons are skills I still use today daily in a performance environment, swimming alongside my teammates in my club.”
The Learn to Swim Framework – a partnership between Scottish Swimming and Scottish Water – has already provided lessons to more than 100,000 children and aims to reach another 100,000 by 2025, helping more young people across Scotland stay safe in the water.
Euan Lowe, CEO of Scottish Swimming said: “Learning to swim should be accessible to everyone and anyone. The Learn to Swim programme provides a setting to allow children, no matter their ability, to learn the skill with their peers.
“The framework has been specially designed so that the lessons can be adapted for all levels and abilities, to help increase the accessibility and inclusion of swim lessons to all children.
“Not only is swimming a vital life skill but it is proven to have a positive impact on social development, which children don’t get to experience to the same extent if they partake in one-to-one lessons.”
The National Framework is delivered by 38 leisure trusts and aquatic providers across more than 160 pools.
Brian Lironi, Director of Corporate Affairs at Scottish Water, said: “Everyone should be able to enjoy Scotland’s miles of rivers, lochs, reservoirs and shorelines safely and with confidence and Learn to Swim gives all children the opportunity to learn and enjoy swimming in a safe way.
“Our vision for the Learn to Swim programme is to create ‘Generation Swim’, a generation of safe and responsible swimmers who will also get to experience the other health and social benefits that swimming can offer.
“The See My Ability campaign plays such an important role in helping to encourage children of all abilities – and their parents – to take part in mainstream lessons, with their friends, and have teachers who feel supported in delivering the framework to all.”
Learn to Swim is a National Framework committed to creating supportive and quality environments in which children can learn to swim regardless of their age, ability, or skill level. It aims to develop competent swimmers, as well as encouraging youngsters to adopt a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle with sport and fun at its heart to reach their full potential both in the pool and out.
For more information on the Learn to Swim programme, visit https://learntoswim.scot/