Pool focus on getting children to swim in 2012

Encouraging more children to take up swimming will be this year’s focus, say bosses of Jesmond Swimming Pool as it celebrates the 20thanniversary of its reopening.

by Jim Bahn

Glenn Armstrong, who became chief executive in January 1992, was given the task of turning a boarded-up building on St George’s Terrace into a fully-functioning leisure centre. Twenty years on and Armstrong gives credit to all the staff and volunteers involved in making the centre a vital part of the Jesmond community, but says he hopes that 2012 will see further improvements.

Swimming is one of the UK’s most popular sports in terms of participation, but in recent years there has been a decline in the number of children involved in the activity. “The biggest decline has been in school swimming,” explains Armstrong. “Five or six years ago we were offering 12 hours-a-week school swimming and that dropped to about six hours overnight. That was when the government was putting extra pressure on pupils’ learning and swimming suffered as a result.”

Jesmond Pool has tried to correct the deficit by providing more swimming lessons for children outside school hours.

“We are trying to do as much as we can to get kids into swimming as soon as possible,” says Armstrong. “We start from mum-and-baby classes through to pre-school and right up to taking kids to a competitive level.”

Armstrong says he is proud to have steered the pool to its 20th birthday and he says much of its success is down to the support of the Jesmond community.

“We opened with no guarantee of staying open as we had no backing at all. The support from Jesmond was, from day one, fantastic. I think people realised how much they’d missed the pool with it being closed for a year and even those people who didn’t use it that often, or didn’t use it at all, were happy to support us.”

Visit the Jesmond Swimming Pool website for more information.