Olympic swimmer opens Stevenage primary school pool

Olympic swimmer James Whitehead with Shephalbury Park pupils

Olympic swimmer James Whitehead with Shephalbury Park pupils - Credit: Archant

A former Olympic athlete has opened a new primary school swimming pool after it was revealed only a third of its pupils could swim 25m unaided.

Adam Whitehead, who competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics in Australia and took gold at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, opened the pool at Shephalbury Park Primary School in Stevenage.

The 12m x 6m outdoor pool is part of the British Gas Pools 4 Schools initiative which aims to provide opportunities for children in the area to learn to swim. The installation comes after teachers found only 30% of the school’s children could swim 25m without help from an adult.

Mr Whitehead delivered a talk to the children and then joined a group of pupils in the pool for a swimming masterclass.

He said: “Drowning is one of the most common causes of accidental death in children and young people in the UK. I was lucky to swim from a young age, and as an adult you grow up and realise that swimming, something you enjoy, is not just important for socialising and having fun, but it’s also something that can save lives.”

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Headteacher Chelsea Atkins added: “School swimming costs a large amount of money, most of which is spent on transport. The pupils end up getting one short lesson a week and they make slow progress. Now we can get them all swimming their 25m.

“This opportunity has given them confidence in the water and hopefully inspired them to go swimming more regularly outside of school.”

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The initiative also offers swimming activities to the wider community by providing extra sessions outside school hours, with swimming lessons from £2 per person. These can be booked by calling Shephalbury Park Primary School on 01438 235454.

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