MORE than 2,000 P4 pupils in Aberdeen are the first for some six years to dip their toes in curriculum-time water. Budget cuts hit transport costs in the mid-1990s and school swimming was sacrificed. Only a small Scottish Executive windfall for the city has allowed lessons for a limited number of children.
The clamour for a return to the pool followed a survey which found that one in three first-year secondary pupils could not swim or could swim less than 10 metres. Anne Masson, the city's swimming development officer, said the statistic was "shocking". The city is now targeting younger pupils in an initiative that remains dependent on additional central funds. Pupils from 21 schools took part in a block of 10 45-minute sessions between October and Christmas and a further 17 schools are involved until Easter. The last group will learn to swim from Easter up until the summer break. Some are bused to their nearest pool, others walk.
Ms Masson said: "We are trying to ensure that all pupils can learn to swim or gain water confidence so that they can join a structured programme. Our aim is to have all children able to swim at least a width by the age of 10."
The eight-year-olds are given a free voucher for another block of lessons outwith school hours in a programme run by Aqua Aberdeen. Other young swimmers have to pay to join.