New policy for school swimming

Holly Ramsay.
Holly Ramsay.
Children in the Clutha District will have broader access to school swimming hours after a change in council policy.

At its service delivery committee meeting last week, the council voted against introducing fees for school swimming sessions, and approved a new allocation system for school hours for Balclutha and Milton pools.

The new system moved away from the previous ''first come, first served'' allocation to a ''fairer'' system of hours, based on pupil numbers, Clutha District Council aquatics services team leader Holly Ramsay said.

Schools requiring additional time beyond their initial allocation could book it after all allocated hours had been confirmed.

The proposal for change had come about after Milton schools had expressed ''dissatisfaction'' with the previous system, because schools preferred to use the pool in the peak of summer, leading to booking congestion.

Although at present only about half of the district's 25 schools used one of the two pools for their water safety/swim programmes, the new fixed allocation of hours would be offered to all schools.

Capacity for this extended provision existed within the total allocation of school swim hours (Balclutha, 570; Milton, 280), Mrs Ramsay said.

Although earlier borough councils had attempted to introduce school swimming fees on various occasions since 1993, community opposition had prevented this from occurring.

This made school swimming access an ''invisible [council] subsidy for the community'', Mrs Ramsay said.

Clutha District Mayor Bryan Cadogan confirmed this was the case, but said acquiring water safety and swimming skills was essential for a rural community surrounded by rivers, lakes and ocean.

''Drownings are one of the highest causes of death in New Zealand, next to road accidents. Increasingly, schools don't retain their swimming pools, so this is a public education service council is providing.''

However, as the new system would not increase the total number of hours, there would be no increase in cost to ratepayers, he said.

''Swimming is something that should be encouraged as much as possible, and that's our aim here.''

Schools would be able to take up their new allocations from the pool's spring reopening, on August 27.


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