White Currants

Swimming, especially as school sport seems to be the white currant of sport. To explain, there are black currants, red currants and white currants, we all can buy the red currants, know the black currants from jam, cheese cake and juice but the white currants are hardly known. In the school sports world, here in London, swimming is hardly known to exist.

What really is important to introduce swimming as a sport to schools and having looked at the Sport England Website, they have some very good headlines like: “Swimming – Health benefits proven“, Core market – people who already play sport are hugely valuable”, “Local delivery“.

For school sport however, here in Greater London especially, there is no funding available for schools to make it a permanent feature as a school sport. Primary schools get funding for 2 years to take primary kids to swimming once per week for 45 minutes. It is actually enshrined in British law that school must teach children to swim.

Madison, who attends secondary at Bishop Challoner Girls now gotten taken swimming for one half term, that is around 6 sessions for 1 hour each per year. Madison’s PE teachers think she is not athletic enough to be put into the set 1 for PE ‘because she is only a swimmer and that is not a school sport’. [sic]. Though her school is very supportive of her swimming club lessons, starting at 6am on some mornings.

All the swimming that Madison does with her swimming club is privately funded. Parents have to pay for club membership, for ASA membership, competitions and travel there, costumes and equipment are also dear. Parents even need to volunteer to keep the clubs running, to man competition officials. For being an official parents even have to purchase their own stop watches and whites to wear and other equipment. often at competitions it is hard to get the core amount of officials needed to run the competitions.

I think that structurally swimming is chronically under-funded.

Perhaps this has to do with the fact that especially in London schools usually do not have pools inside the school compound.

Swimming has become a private sport that has to be financed with money that people earn and is manned with swimmers whose carers/family can afford to bring them to lessons, especially when they are younger.

As already mentioned in the previous post top coaches earn a good salary that an average club cannot afford. Swimming generally gets funded by lottery money or many athlets depends on GLL funding, clubs depend on the hugely important Jack Petchey foundation.

British swimming has established two British Swim Centres in Loughborough and Bath, four top coaches are employed to train there and coach Olympic teams but London, that actually has the Olympic pool has no such scheme; we merely have a Beacon program.

The Beacon program is a huge and very important step forward to get competitive swimming established and furthered in all regions of Britain. London’s Beacon program is delivered by the LACPP at the London Aquatics Centre. With the UEL running the LACPP and top coaches’ careers being at jeopardy at present because of a funding problem, we are really on edge about the future of our swimming club.

I do understand that UEL and Swim England are currently negotiating the situation and I have no complete insight how the funding works but obviously from the £100.000 Lottery funding that Sport England gives the UEL to run LACPP over 4 years, (according to the Minister for Sport), there is a doubt that the coach, who delivers the Beacon program and excellently so, can stay in post because of a lack of funding.

Swimming is chronically underfunded. In school sports’ teachers minds, swimmers are not atheltic and the ethos of swimming seems centred around those who are already famous and made it to the top. 84900739_84900738We all love Adam Peaty. But getting there literally needs years and years of almost daily training and when at the top often training twice per day. Adam is extremely athletic.

To get swimming more widely established, schools should get funding to make swimming a school sport as it would cut the health care costs that the NHS is so worried about. So the government should fund more  swimming in schools as they would save the money on NHS costs.

Parents are already investing a large part of their salaries into the swimming sport of their children, many parents simply do not have the money at all to allow their kids to swim as a sport. Recently, through cut-backs, some local councils stopped funding their local swimming clubs and that has a huge effect on clubs. Many club coaches have to work during the day and coach in the evenings to help kids into competitive swimming, they all do their utmost.

Swimming is probably the most undangerous sport that has the most health benefits and should make Britain a healthier nation, so the Sports Ministry should invest more into it.

I also think that swimming club membership keeps children off the streets and helps reduce crime.






One of the most important considerations for me as parent is the factor of stability. Swimming was always meant to be an enhancement to the growing up process, a sport that helps improve school results and learning rather than be an alternative to education.

Children’s lives these days are marked out till at least they are 18, Nursery, Primary School, Secondary School, A-levels. University, Job.

Whilst for school we get the time-table at least 1 year ahead, we know what is expected of a pupil at all times, we can normally fit our swimming routine in with the education and group our social life around this.

During Madison’s early swimming years, she was a member of Bethnal Green Sharks and I now start to appreciate how important the stable running of that club was to us. There were always the same teachers, the schedule would never change, for years and years, we could rely on it.

We then changed to LACPP and were given a totally different routine and we managed to adhere to this as well. We were given competition schedules, great, another thing to put into the diary and something we could plan ahead for.

What is happening now is that suddenly we got an e-mail saying that the future of the club is uncertain. I got e-mails saying, “We hope you can bear with us during this difficult time”.

But there is not even a hint of when we are going to get a schedule, apparently it all depends on negotiations between Swim England and the UEL.

Yet as a parent I kind of would like to know that our time-tables and swimming schedules  and competition schedules are guaranteed for the coming year.

Unfortunately this is not yet the case. I am trying to explain why I now start to panic and ask for trials with another club that seems very stable and has great training routines and excellent swimmers, who also participate in regional and national competitions.

Considering that both our lead coaches are rumoured to be leaving the LACPP as well and we do not even know what coaches we are going to get and there are only rumours that there are going to be reduced training hours for the top squads without again providing for land training, it seems quite logical that I want to look for another club.

For smaller swimmers it might not be so impacting on their lives that some things are uncertain but for Madison who has to choose her GCSE subjects next year and start to learn for a tougher GCSE schedule than ever, we just cannot afford any more instability.

My conscience is clear

As a parent, I have been called all kinds of things for bringing my child to a lot of swimming sessions, starting at 6am on some days. The worst one was slave-driver. It hit me hard. I suppose some like the word couch potato more?

Having an active life should be the norm and not the exception and the concept of always keeping busy, I suppose has become alien to many.

Yet I had some doubts as to whether it is justifiable to allow Madison to spend so many hours per week at the pool, that is prolonged by travel-time to and from the LAC.

Yet so far Madison always had 100% school attendance through from Primary School. Madison never missed a day since she started Secondary school and has no late marks either.

Madison had the highest marks on the SATS exams in year 6 of Primary and now still is 2 grades ahead of target in 70% of her subjects and does not fall below target in any subjects taught at school.

I just received her interim report from school and again can only recommend swimming as sport for youngsters, as it definitely does not dim the intellect. However, having said that, I must emphasize that high quality coaching is essential. The coaches at the LACPP use the latest methods in a pleasantly professional manner, which aids a child’s development and doesn’t cloud the mind.


Holocaust Memorial Day

East London Central Synagogue speakers (Rev Alan Green not on photo)

Madison and I attended the 2017 Holocaust Memorial Day at the East London Central Synagogue, London Nelson Street. The theme was ‘Trauma and coming to terms with the past’.

I think young people need to understand the feelings and sentiments of the people in their community and express sympathy with their grief. We attended yesterday with a contingent of German worshippers from the German Catholic Church in Adler Street, St. Boniface.

Distinguished speakers at the event included Reverend Alan Green, for whom I briefly acted as Parish Secretary, until the duty of a swimming parent tore me away from this post; and Father Christian Dieckmann who was described as a great friend by Leon Silver.

It was a very moving ceremony and as unfortunate the cause for it was, it hopefully grew Madison’s character and spiritual maturity.

Swimmers do not just exist in pools, they live with the community around them and travel to foreign lands for competition and I think it is very important to create social harmony around our sports people.

The speaker from Tower Hamlets Council, Cllr Sirajul Islam, reminded me why the poem by Pastor Niemoller “First They Came“, which was also read by Barry Davis, that we really all have to speak up for each other and give support.

Feeling secure and happy is very important to sports men and women and social cohesion plays a great part in this.

Madison’s school, Bishop Challoner Federation school is also a Holocaust Beacon School.

Happy and successfull 2017

  • stay positive
  • be punctual
  • attend as many sessions as possible.
  • don’t become a dictator. (1)
  • try for new Personal Best times. (2)
  • do not ignore your GCSE exams/school work (3)
  • use good nourishment routines.(4)
  • remember committment gets you further.
  • reduce empty times, keep busy. (5)
  • complete all tasks as set by your coach.

(1) I have heard that

  • some swimmers will only swim if their parents buy them certain costumes and/or goggles in certain colours. Make swimming your most important task not the colour of your costume.
  • some swimmers only want to swim if another specific person also swims. Remember you swim because it is your favourite sport.

(2) The older you get the harder is it to get new PBs. Perhaps extra land training and gym workouts or other types of muscle training will help.

(3) Use your time wisely and do homework between school and swimming and do not stay up too late to complete home work. Get at least 7 hours sleep per night.

(4) Eat at least 1 1/2 hours prior to swim practise with plenty of fluid. After practise have nourishing drinks and replenishing snacks/meals.

(5) if you sit and watch TV/films, try and exercise by using a hand weight.

Pools and schools

It is possible to combine successfully schooling and swimming. If you look at a schools’ registries, they have a lot of categories under which they can book a pupil’s lateness and/or absence.

Swimming is classified as out-side education. If a swimmer is late for school because of swimming, they need not get a late mark, they are at outside education.

There are specialised sports schools in China, who combine education and sport, there is one very famous swimming school in England named Millfield but here in London we either have pools or schools generally.

I am very sorry to hear that some swimmers get reprimanded by their schools for being late after morning practise and strongly want to encourage all parents taking up that point with their school and make them aware that their child is at out-side education rather than being late.

Unfortunately morning practise has become a sticking point for many and some swimmers rather drop out of morning practise. You got to be strongly motivated for morning practise.

Please let your swimming coach write you a letter, stating the training schedule, present this to your school and get the headmaster to authorise absence because of this out-side education.

Morning training is an excellent prep for a school day, it clears the mind, reduces stress and helps to feel better throughout the day. Madison went for morning training during her Primary SATS and did extremely well.

Poolside homework

In Tower Hamlets I feel, there are fewer Secondary School pupils engaged with competitive swimming than in other boroughs. Most schools here in Tower Hamlets are more or less strongly competing in ball games or athletics rather than swimming. There is one school with a pool in the borough.

Madison has been swimming since 7 years and her homework schedule increased since attending Bishop Challoner School for Girls. When to do homework is always an issue.

I noticed there are plenty of homework clubs in Tower Hamlets but none are near pools. I think one way of increasing Secondary pupils’ swimming would be help with homework whilst waiting for the session.

Madison goes to the pool straight after school as there is not enough time to go home and then to the pool. There is about 45 minutes wait, which can be used brilliantly to do some homework.

Perhaps pool operators could make one of their suits available for homework clubs to encourage secondary pupils to come to swimming sessions.

Especially now as many more parents work, homework clubs combined with swimming sessions would help both parents, the swimmers and the sport.

swimming as a sport for school kids

My granddaughter always had excellent school results despite going swimming regularly, or perhaps because she went swimming regularly. Whichever, I did not want to stop her as her swimming results gotten better and faster whilst her school exams were all top results.

Whilst we started with basic lessons twice per week, it escalated to 3 – 4 times per week with lessons having moved from the small pool to the big pool and they lasted then 40 minutes per session. We now go swimming 6 times per week and do extra workouts at home.

We always looked forward to the swimming, it is a great way to eliminate the daily stress and put the energy into the daily workout. Even when my granddaughter had to participate in the SATS level 2, she never missed her swimming sessions as they help feeling great. Her SATS results literally were the best in the small primary she attended. See also my page about swimming and education.

Schools actually can book any lateness because of early morning swimming before school as education outside of school and so it does count as attended.