Cheltenham Ladies’ College Works with Local Charities to Deliver Top-up Swimming Lessons to Primary School Pupils

During the Easter holidays, approximately 100 children from local primary schools embarked on an intensive one-week programme of ‘top-up’ swimming lessons at Cheltenham Ladies’ College Health and Fitness Centre.

Designed to help youngsters who had not met National Curriculum standards for swimming, the scheme was delivered by local charities Heidi’s Heroes and Move More, in partnership with Cheltenham Ladies’ College.

The programme of lessons, recognised as highly effective by Swim England, sees children taught in very small groups every day for an entire week. This method of teaching is not a common one due to the challenging logistics involved, but it is an approach College was keen to support.

Swimming is the only sport to be included in the National Curriculum, and swimming lessons are compulsory for all primary school children. Despite this, research by Swim England has found that only half of pupils nationally meet the minimum requirements set out by the government.

One of the main barriers for primary schools wishing to offer top-up lessons to their pupils is access to suitable facilities. Seeing an opportunity to help, Cheltenham Ladies’ College offered the use of its swimming pool, as well as transportation for many of the children, and helped to source the swimming teachers.

At present, Cheltenham Ladies’ College is one of the only independent schools working with partner organisations to provide top-up swimming lessons to primary school pupils, and their efforts have been recognised as an example of best practice by Lord Agnew in a recent House of Lords debate.

The Department for Education and the Independent Schools Council are keen for more independent schools to share private sports facilities with state schools, and it is hoped that similar programmes could be rolled out across the country. Cheltenham Ladies’ College has already been in touch with other independent schools looking to emulate the partnership-based scheme.

Will Parker, Director of Sport and Physical Activity at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, says “This is a great partnership between us and two local charities. The programme is now in its fifth year and this is the first year that CLC has been a partner. At the start of the week, some of the children were in tears just at the thought of being in the water, but by the end of the week they were all swimming independently, with many gaining their 25m badges!” 

Delighted with the success of the Easter programme, Cheltenham Ladies’ College has expressed its ongoing commitment to the delivery of top-up swimming lessons in the future, including a further programme planned to take place this summer.