Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Second Report



14. The Government published its "Plan for Sport: A Sporting Future for All", in March 2001. It outlined a strategy to promote sport in schools and the community, including: the refurbishment of school sports facilities; the creation of a community sports alliance; a school sports alliance and specialist sports colleges; the promotion of out of school hours activities including sports; and the establishment of school sports co-ordinators and a network of coaching and support. In response to the concerns of the Ofsted Report on Swimming at Key Stage 2, the Plan also established a Swimming Advisory Group which was due to report in December 2001. Its terms of reference were "to consider the main findings of the Ofsted report, and other relevant survey findings, and to make recommendations of workable proposals, both in the short term and long term address the main issues of concern, including water safety lessons, and how to increase the number of children who can swim 25 metres by Key Stage 2".[19]

15. A priority of the Plan for Sport is to encourage children into sporting activities and competition. Despite the popularity and benefits of swimming, there was scant reference specifically to that subject. Likewise, there is no specific government funding for swimming, with the New Opportunities Fund and Space for Sports and Arts unlikely to be used for the building of pools.[20] The Government states in its memorandum that "it is for local authorities to ensure that spatial development plans and local sports development policies reflect the importance of swimming and set aside sufficient investment to improve or, if necessary, to replace existing facilities ... even the most modern facilities will usually require a long term commitment from the local authority to guarantee for all income groups."[21]

16. Although no funding from the Government is forthcoming for swimming, the document states that "the Government wants to encourage local authorities to look at new and innovative ways of modernising and rebuilding swimming facilities." Sport England are to offer advice to local authorities and clubs in developing swimming strategies, whilst English Heritage provides advice on listed buildings.[22]

17. The Government should recognise the unique society-wide benefits of swimming and reflect this in its sporting strategies. Reference to swimming within an overall plan for sport is no substitute for a specific strategy on swimming. It would be of little value for the Government to welcome this Report while failing to back up encouraging noises with specific action such as dedicated funding being made available to local authorities for their swimming pools.

Amateur Swimming Association

18. The Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) is the governing body for swimming in England, and with the Scottish and Welsh bodies forms the Amateur Swimming Federation of Great Britain. The ASA organises competition throughout England, establishes the laws of the sport and supports the national teams for swimming, diving, water polo, open water, and synchronized swimming. The ASA offers education programmes and certification for teachers, coaches and officials, and operates an awards scheme. The ASA also supports the 1600 affiliated clubs through a National/Regional/County structure. Duncan Goodhew said that the ASA was, however, "not ready structurally to run a modernised sport"; and Sharron Davies pointed to the failure of the current system to retain and develop talent.[23] The Association's current aim is to encourage all local authorities to produce a written swimming strategy, taking account of the swimming needs of all the community, and to provide the facilities necessary to meet these needs. To this end, together with Sport England, the ASA has developed the following initiatives:

      (a)  Swim 21—the Amateur Swimming Association's national development plan which aims to ensure high standards of teaching and coaching by providing a network of development officers to work closely with local authorities and to try and encourage clubs to work constructively with local authorities and local education authorities.

      (b)  From Arm Bands to Gold Medals—ASA's national facility plan for swimming together with Sport England, to encourage investment in pools, to develop a network to accommodate all the swimming disciplines, water polo, diving, synchronised swimming and swimming. This plan has yet to be published, and Sport England urges the ASA to do so.[24]

      (c)  Active Sports Programme—Sport England's development programme targeting 10 sports including swimming, and encouraging young people to become more involved in sport. The programme created 45 sports partnerships to assist in training and coaching and to promote easier access to facilities.

19. As well as the modernisation of existing pools, the ASA also sees a need for new 50 metre pools in England for elite swimming. An objective is to have at least one eight lane, 25 metre pool with adequate spectator support in each county, and to increase the number of 50 metre pools in line with provision in other comparable countries.[25] It was, however, not readily apparent from the evidence given by the ASA that it had a firm and practical strategy for delivering this national programme.

Delivery mechanisms

20. In order to achieve the aims of ASA's and Sport England's programmes, Sport England has awarded Lottery funding to swimming, covering the period from 1997 to September 2001, of £220 million.[26] Exchequer funding of £0.5 million is being provided to elite swimming this year through UK Sport and Sport England.[27] However, following the poor medal tally of swimmers at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, swimming has dropped from a priority 1, to a priority 2 sport. Funding, from the World Class Performance, Potential and Start Programmes, has been cut from £11.2 million (over the period 1997 to September 2000) to £8.5 million (to cover October 2000 to March 2005).[28] This policy, while rewarding success at international competitions, ignores the possibility that low levels of achievement might be best tackled by long-term investment rather than punitive cuts.

21. The responsibility for the maintenance of existing pools and funding for the provision of new pools has been firmly placed by the Government on Local Authorities.[29]

19   Ev 69 Back

20   Ev 72 Back

21   Ev 70 Back

22   Ibid Back

23   QQ 80, 83 Back

24   Ev 122 Back

25   The number of indoor 50 metre pools in other countries: 92 in Germany (population 100m), including 18 in Berlin; 20 in Greater Paris (population 12m); 12 in Holland (population 15m); 6 in Barcelona (population 3m); 2 in London (population 7m), 17 in the UK (population 56m). Figures provided by the Amateur Swimming Association. Back

26   Ev 47 Back

27   Ev 71 Back

28   Ibid Back

29   Ev 70 Back

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Prepared 15 January 2002