Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012: Legacy - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by Dr John Allan

  This submission is in response to your inquiry into:

    — Progress towards meeting targets to increase grass roots participation in sport.

    — The aim of leaving a lasting legacy that improves cultural life.

    — How success in delivering lasting legacy can be measured.

  In this report I refer to the provision of youth water polo.

  The submission is from Dr John Allan, secretary of the Schools Water Polo League.

  The League has existed for 37 years to promote water polo competition for secondary schools in the SE and Midlands, primarily based in the London area. It organises about 25 tournaments each year for three age groups.

  In the 1980s about 30 secondary schools entered the League; approximately 50:50 State Schools: Independent schools. The State schools progressively lost their swimming pools, access to a local pool and their staff with any interest in this sport. Most swimming and water polo competitions are now dominated by Independent schools thereby excluding about 90% pupils from these inter-school sports.

  Youth water polo in the club set-up collapsed in Britain with the rise of competitive tendering for swimming pools. If pool time was offered it was often at 9.00 pm—too late for most young children.

  Nothing in the last 30 years has given me any indication that the situation has changed. Swimming has almost disappeared from the secondary school curriculum and the teaching colleges produce few teachers of swimming and even less of water polo. Those PE teachers with swimming qualifications have little opportunity to use or develop their skills in state schools.

  Since it is highly unlikely that state schools will ever again own their swimming pools, (new builds rarely include a pool) the future of youth water polo, and therefore the whole sport, lies in the club system, ie the community. Without a significant input to youth water polo the sport has no serious future in Britain. The Olympic legacy will be irrelevant.

  A positive legacy of the Olympic effort would be to fund the teaching of all year 5 and year 6 pupils to swim to a good standard, and to play mini-polo with inter-school competition. At the end of year 6 all those with aptitude should be given details of their local swimming and water polo clubs to which they can transfer at minimum cost.

  A year 7 programme of swimming and water polo should be compulsory to be able to pick up all those children who missed out/avoided/entered the country with no swimming ability.

  After year 7 withdraw swimming/water polo from the state school curriculum. The community/government should thereafter provide a swimming/water polo club programme.

  The legacy of the Olympic Park swimming facilities will be worthless unless a massive re-organisation of "ordinary" facilities is put in place to support it. The government must be pro-active and be prepared to ruffle many feathers to achieve this. All swimming pools of an appropriate size, no matter who owns them, should have to contribute to the community under government direction. All pools should be available, probably on a rotation/collective basis, for youth swimming and water polo clubs to flourish at times of the day that suit the ages of the children. Every area/town/part of city should offer about 18 hours of pool time each week to achieve this.

  Since primary school teachers are unlikely to fulfil much of this it is most important that more School Sports Development Officers be appointed to organise primary school sport, teach the necessary skills and take charge of competition.

  The legacy would be a much healthier generation of children with greater access to facilities. Over time this would increase membership of the privately owned swimming pools that had contributed to the system, with adults continuing to use the swimming pools they had used as children.

January 2010

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