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Learn to Swim coordinator Libby Gray is excited about a new fund that helps children gain ‘vital’ swimming skills. PHOTO: KELLEY TANTAU

Thames pool launches learn-to-swim fund

The Thames Centennial Pool has launched a new fund giving children from low socio-economic backgrounds the chance to access “vital” swimming lessons.
Learn to Swim coordinator Libby Gray said the ‘Swim Cool Swim School’ fund was a relaunch of a similar initiative the pool ran a number of years ago, in which staff would “sponsor” a student.
“They wanted to try and get it up and running again and I was keen but I didn’t want it to fall over,” she said. “So, I spent a bit of time getting the behind the scenes stuff done so we could get the funds behind it to make it work.”
Thanks to a number of local sponsors, the centennial pool team were able to approach four Thames schools, which then selected two students from each who hadn’t taken swimming lessons in the past.
Those students were last week provided with a pair of togs, goggles, and a swimming cap.
Two terms of lessons – over the summer months – will be free of charge, while a further two terms will be offered to the selected students at half price.
“A lot of senior students at primary schools were coming back to us and saying: ‘I don’t need to learn how to swim’. But to combat it, I said: ‘Just because you learn to read and write at school, it doesn’t mean you’ll have a job where you have to read and write.’ It’s the same as learning to swim,” Libby explained. “You don’t need to do it the rest of your life, it just means that if something happens, you’ll have the skills to save yourself.”
Libby said the nation’s drowning statistics and the fact New Zealand was surrounded by water were two reasons children should learn how to swim safely.
She said the selected students were “really quite excited” to dip their toes into the water.
“It does take a long time [to get comfortable], but then once they get their heads underwater, they don’t stop swimming,” Libby said. “Once they’ve got that confidence, it is amazing to watch.”
Running this week until September 29, children who have never had swimming lessons in the past are able to head down to the Centennial Pool on Mackay St, get assessed, and enrolled into classes.
Each term costs $80 and consists of 10 lessons, which Libby said was good value compared to big-city swim schools. Plus, the lessons will provide “vital” learn-to-swim skills as the warmer months approach.