NORTH east Fife’s ‘swimming saga’ looks to have come to an end after parents reached a consensus with Fife Sports and Leisure Trust (FSLT) over controversial new teaching rules.
Guidelines introduced last month meant children could only be supervised from the poolside in classes comprising more than four youngsters.
But after an outcry from parents and teachers amid concerns over safety and the quality of lessons, FSLT has pledged to provide an assistant in the pool where necessary when young children are learning to swim.
A spokeswoman for the north east Fife parents — who met FSLT representatives last week — said the result was ‘as good as they could have hoped for’.
She told the Fife Herald and St Andrews Citizen: “From the parents’ point of view, we are happier that there will now be a teaching assistant in the water, no reduction in lifeguards and increased communication between FSLT and parents.
“We have demonstrated that the situation was handled badly and FSLT agreed lessons have been learned from this.
“There will not be a U-turn on policy, but I feel there have been concessions made and am pleased FSLT agreed to the meeting and were prepared to listen to our views.”
The press was barred from the meeting — although Fife Sports and Leisure Trust was represented by its PR agency, the Big Partnership.
The parents’ spokeswoman went on: “The teachers across Fife who still want to be in the water won’t be happy, but I really can’t see FSLT changing this policy as they say there are plenty of teachers and managers happy with the new policy.
“My concern now is what will happen to any teachers who decide to continue in the water.”
It was revealed at the meeting that FSLT has recently received almost £4 million in funding from Sport Scotland — with one of the conditions being that national swimming guidelines are followed.
Those guidelines have come from governing body Scottish Swimming and have been implemented Fife-wide, as well as in neighbouring local authority areas.
Wendy Watson, FSLT’s customer service manager, described the meeting as a success — and said it had always been the Trust’s intention to provide teaching assistants in the water where necessary.
She said: “Both parents and councillors confirmed they were happy with the outcome of the meeting.
“There was a consensus that by adopting Scottish Swimming’s national guidelines, the Trust will be able to deliver a much more consistent and better quality swimming programme to the parents and children of Fife.
“The meeting allowed us to explain the positive reasons for teachers being on poolside and confirm that, contrary to recent press reports, there has been no ban on swimming teachers entering the water.
“When necessary, the Trust always intended to provide a teaching assistant in the water — this is in line with Scottish Swimming best practice.
“We were also able to explain that the Trust is going to offer smaller class sizes, with a ratio of one teacher to one, two or four pupils, as is the case in some of its centres currently, on a Fife-wide basis.
“This, along with improved teacher training and qualifications, will deliver a better, more consistent and higher quality programme across all of the Trust’s centres.
“The Trust hopes that the level of misinformation and speculation will not deter parents from enrolling their children into a swimming lesson programme — learning to swim is a life saving skill.”