As part of the Floats Initiative, Assist Social Capital received funding from the Young Start Award of the Big Lottery Fund to increase access to swimming lessons for communities across Scotland through
(a) providing training opportunities for young people
(b) establishing community-based swimming schools and
(c) creating as well as promoting an online platform to manage swim schools for new young teachers and community swim school
Why do we need more available swimming lessons?
As the numbers of swimming pools are declining in the UK, so does the amount of swimming lessons available to children as well as adults. One of the consequences is that according to Ofsted schools have to cut down in the amount of swimming lessons due to increasing costs and travel time. In many cases alone the travel to the nearest available pool can be twice as long as the swimming lesson itself! It comes therefore as no surprise that the figure of children aged 11-18 swimming on a weekly basis dropped considerably since 1993: one in four children used to go swimming weekly, by 2008 the number had reduced to only one in ten children (British Market Research Bureau).
On the other hand children today are more than twice as likely to spend their free time watching TV compared to playing sports as the British Triathlon Survey highlighted. At the same time child obesity figures are rising from 10.9 percent of boys and 12 percent of girls being obese in 1995 to 17.3 percent and 14.7 percent, respectively, in 2006 (NHS). This emphasises the importance of making sports including swimming more accessible to children.
Another major reason to increase swimming lessons is to address the issue of drowning incidents. The WTO has identified death by drowning as "serious and neglected public health threat" due to it being amongst the 10 leading causes of death worldwide with over half of all drownings occurring among those aged 25 and below. In the UK alone more than 400 accidental deaths by drowning happen every year and it being the third highest cause of death in children.
In order to address those problems more swimming schools as well as swimming teachers are required. During year 1, the Floats project aimed at contributing to this objective by supporting swim schools - primarily aimed at children - to be set up as well as training young people to become swim teachers. During the current second year of the project, Floats aims at developing a software platform called 'Swim School in a Box' for community-based initiatives and social enterprises providing swimming lessons to manage the administrative side of a swim school.