Are Maintenance Costs Jeopardising School Swimming Lessons?

Growing maintenance costs of ageing school pools are putting potentially life-saving swimming lessons out of the reach of thousands of Kiwi youth according to an industry expert.

According to the latest statistics, 80 New Zealanders drown annually; and within the first three weeks of 2020, there have been eight preventable deaths.

School pools facing closure

Former Olympic and national swimming coach Mark Bone says swimming lessons from an early age are essential to reducing our national drowning statistics. He says public schools are not building new pools and many of those already in existence may be decades old and in need of ongoing maintenance, with some estimates suggesting around 300 pools around the country have either closed in the past five years or are currently facing closure.

Bone who recently opened Swimtastic, a multi-million dollar swimming complex in Auckland’s eastern suburbs says the cost of running a school pool, along with the exposure to health and safety risks, have acted as a deterrent for many schools to maintain a swimming programme.

“It is a sad indictment of our education system that swimming is not currently compulsory within the school curriculum. My concern is that we are reaching a point where access to swimming lessons is driven by the decile level of the school, leaving thousands of our children without the resources to develop a fundamental life skill,” he says.

Bone says past Otago University research showed two thirds of school children in the study could not swim 100 meters.

Mike Purcell principal of Henderson High School says maintenance costs forced the Board to close their swimming pool at the end of last year.

“The school’s ageing pool and filtering system had been limping along for the last two years but it reached a crisis point at the end of last March where we needed to shut it for health and safety reasons. Keeping the pool viable was going to require a significant investment which may have ended our water-based programmes including the learn to swim programme, life saving courses, delivering the physical education curriculum and a range of other activities.”

“A significant shortage of suitable alternative swimming pools in the local area meant almost 1,000 students would not have access to water safety programmes. A number of our students live near West Auckland beaches, which have a reputation as a high risk drowning area.”

“We were fortunate to have been able to have found almost $45,000 in funding from local social enterprise The Trusts which meant we would be able to effect repairs and bring the pool back online from the beginning of the school year,” he says.

More schools needing support

Amanda Cassidy spokesperson for ‘The Trusts’ West Auckland says their data shows a growing number of schools approaching them for funding for playground equipment and donations to cover their swimming pool maintenance in recent years.

“Meeting the needs of local schools represent a significant proportion of the millions of dollars we give back to community organisations annually, with more than $1.5m allocated to education groups in the past year alone.

“While we find it immensely rewarding to be able to provide the funding to help schools cover their capital costs, it is concerning to see an increase in the numbers needing support for what is an essential part of our children’s education and physical development,” she says.

Content provided on behalf of West Auckland Trusts Services – The Trusts

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  1. Alezandra 03/03/2020 at 9:02 pm

    Swimming lessons are quite costly but as parents, we made a decision to have them for our son. As we live around water, it’s best to be safe around them. I do hope that schools or at least the government the value of having pools for swim lessons around the country.

  2. MuddledUpMolly 02/03/2020 at 10:29 pm

    Unfortunately this is a problem which falls exclusively on the government. Years of poorly funded education in our country and a pathetic operations budget is the reason that most schools no longer have pools. With the amount of preventable deaths, one would think the government would look at making it more of a priority to prevent rather than being the ambulance at the bottom of the hill.

  3. Mands1980 27/02/2020 at 8:28 pm

    Our local school does not have a pool on school grounds but they can walk down the round to the local community pool the only thing is it’s absolutely freezing. Schools don’t do enough swimming I noticed at our schools swimming sports a lot of kids struggled to swim and they only do 5 25 mins sessions a year which is not enough it’s simply not enough.

  4. Jen_Wiig 27/02/2020 at 1:15 pm

    All 3 of my boys attend West Auckland schools at each level and none have a pool… Its sad. They have through their primary years had a little bit of swimming lessons via school that takes them to West wave but it’s once a week for 3 or 4 weeks then that’s it. I wish lessons were more affordable especially given the alarming drowning rates we have here. I remember when I was a kid nippers was free until we were 10 then it was $20 a term… The local council covered majority of the cost but it meant there was less drowning at our local beach and we as adults are now confident swimmers and respect the water.

  5. SarahBlair 25/02/2020 at 4:27 pm

    In the three schools that my 8 year old has attended none of them have has a school pool and they have gone to the local pools for their swimming lessons. Unfortunately they only get a few lessons during the year so its not really enough to make them a good swimmer.

  6. Shorrty4life1 25/02/2020 at 10:43 am

    Wowee this is shocking that 8 people have died ready due to preventable drownings around New Zealand. So sad. My childrens school does not have a swimming pool on site they have to go to the community pool for lessons which are normally fully funded. But I remember there was always a swimming pool at each school when I was a child for our swimming lessons. Its so much more ideal

  7. Micht 25/02/2020 at 12:31 am

    We have a pool at our school and my daughter gets lessons every week… its a made up harder to get in it but glad they have the opportunity.

  8. Bevik1971 14/02/2020 at 9:50 am

    I think swimming lessons for our kids is really important, especially in NZ where we have a huge beach culture. My daughter is 7 and has swimming at school, luckily their school is really close to the local pools so they walk there. They also had a beach education day on the Wed at one our of beaches with Surf Life Saving, so she learned a lot

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