FIFE Sports and Leisure Trust has said it would be happy to meet concerned parents to discuss its controversial decision to ban swimming teachers from the water.
The trust has decided to enforce Scottish Swimming safety guidelines which advise instructors to remain on the poolside for classes of four or more.
However, worried parents claim there are potential safety implications and say they should have been consulted first.
The trust has already received 100 letters of complaint from people using Cupar Sports Centre, and parents have set up a group which is seeking a meeting with trust officials.
Cupar councillors Margaret Kennedy and Bryan Poole, with the full backing of the town’s community council, have urged the trust to discuss the matter with parents.
Offering to facilitate the meeting, Councillor Kennedy said: “I am concerned about child safety and confidence, and the willingness of children to go into the pool without a teacher.
“For a number of children it will be an issue and in terms of parental responsibility, they have passed on some of that responsibility to the people who are teaching their children.
“I think other health and safety concerns are being created here.”
Sam Wilson, the trust’s operations manager, said it was not realistic for the organisation to consult with parents on operational decisions.
However, he said the trust would be happy to meet with representatives of the parents’ group to discuss any concerns.
Mr Wilson went on: “In conjunction with Fife Council’s swimming development officer, a full consultation with swimming teaching staff was conducted.
“This was open to all staff – no swimming staff from Cupar Leisure Centre chose to attend.”
Commenting on the decision to adopt national guidelines and not let teachers decide for themselves, Mr Wilson added: “These guidelines specify when an instructor or assistant to the instructor should be in the water or on the poolside.
“The reasons for the position of the swimming teacher are based on ensuring the safety of the people in the aterand optimum learning experiences.
“The delivery of swimming lessons has been revised to improve safety, quality and consistency.”
A parent on the group said that given the strength of feeling Fife Council – which gave the trust over £4 million of funding this year – should order an immediate review of the decision.
However, Grant Ward, head of Fife Council’s leisure and cultural services, said: “Whilst operational matters are properly a matter for Fife Sports and Leisure Trust, we would expect them to be delivering swimming lessons in accordance with the relevant national guidance, in this particular case, the pool management and programming guide developed by the national governing body, Scottish Swimming, in partnership with sportscotland.
“This clearly states that where a teacher has responsibility for groups comprising more than two pupils, the recommended teaching position for both instructional and safety purposes is at the side of the swimming pool.
“This doesn’t preclude a teacher being in the water to assist pupils, but, again, the guidance clearly states that this should be for no more than four pupils unless an additional assistant is available in the water.
“Given the vast majority of swimming lessons provided by FSLT operate on a teacher:pupil ratio of 1:12, their approach is entirely consistent with recognised best custom and practice.”
Politicians from across north east Fife have expressed their concern at the changes.
North East Fife MP Sir Menzies Campbell said he feared parents would become reluctant to enrol their children for swimming lessons, which he said would be a “very disappointing outcome.”
Local MSP Rod Campbell said: “I can understand the trepidation some teachers may have about not adhering to these guidelines.
“The safety of the pupils is of paramount importance and must always be the primary consideration.
“If larger groups are to be taught clearly the best way forward is for is for more swimming teachers or assistants to be either in the water or poolside.
“This may however reduce access to lessons which would be undesirable.”