British Olympic medalists Becky Adlington, Steve Parry and Beth Tweddle have launched a nationwide campaign, including a £ 3million investment, to advance the recruitment of children’s swimming and gymnastics teachers.
The Olympians warned that there was a personnel crisis, in swimming in particular. There was a shortage of qualified swimming teachers before Covid, but the pandemic has exacerbated the problem due to the closure of swimming pools across the UK. The result is that hundreds of thousands of children are now deprived of school due to the pandemic.
House of Sport – the Bury-based company founded by Steve, which includes swim !, Total Swimming Academies, Beth Tweddle Gymnastics and Becky Adlington’s SwimStars – is investing £ 3million to address the shortage of qualified teachers, to recruit and train 100 swimming teachers and 40 gymnastics coaches by the end of the year. In the longer term, they want to add 4,000 by 2030.
The campaign is designed to re-attract qualified coaches to the industry as well as to train new employees. Sporting House will pay the £ 1,000 training fee for each teacher / coach and stresses that potential applicants do not need any previous experience or qualifications.
Steve says, “We basically believe that we should hire people based on their attitude and then train them for the skills. It all depends on the relationship between the teacher and the youngster – sports teachers can have a big influence on a child’s life. If you are passionate about making a difference and believe that children should have good opportunities and benefit from experiences, this is the role for you.
He points out that teachers will earn an average of £ 20,000 per year, which will make roles more attractive than low-paying entry-level jobs in other sectors, and that there will be career paths to follow.
“We are making huge investments to pay people good wages and provide quality education,” he adds. “I hope this will give the rest of the industry some thought as well.”
Becky and Steve have expressed concern that the industry’s shortage is leading to an increasing number of children leaving elementary school without knowing basic swimming skills.
During the pandemic, schools without their own swimming pools could not provide lessons and swimming schools could not operate as staff were forced to leave and find other jobs – many then chose not to return due to concerns about the availability of work and the reduction of income.
The easing of lockdown restrictions has resulted in an increase in demand for courses that has not been met due to a shortage of qualified teachers, which has created long waiting lists.
With school swimming also in decline, a huge recruitment drive is needed to fill the education gap.
“We must describe the current situation as a crisis”, Becky says, “There has always been a shortage of swimming teachers but the problem has worsened because of Covid. Swimming, along with water safety, is such an important life skill and unfortunately scores of children still drown every year. It really helps save people’s lives so you need to see it as a life skill rather than just a sport. If the children cannot access the lessons because there are not enough teachers, that is a huge concern.
Swim England, England’s national governing body, revealed earlier this year that a nationwide shortage of 8,000 swimming teachers could mean 600,000 children skipping lessons.
And a million children could drop out of primary school over the next five years without being able to swim the national curriculum minimum standard, with warnings from a ‘lost generation’ of swimmers unless steps are taken to stop the decline.
Prior to the pandemic, around one in four children could not swim the regulatory 25 meters out of primary school and it is feared that this could reach three in five children by the 2025-2026 school year.
” It’s horrible “ Steve says, “I fundamentally believe that all children should know how to swim. Our education system too, given that this is a legal requirement in key stage 2, but we fail to achieve it, drastically. We want to be part of the solution by providing more swimming spaces, recruiting more quality teachers and offering more lessons.
The recruitment drive is also supported by world champion gymnast and fellow Olympic medalist Beth Tweddle, with the coach shortage also being a problem in her sport.
“There has always been a huge demand for gymnastics” she says, “But Covid had a huge impact and the lack of classes resulted in a backlog of people who were ready to take the exams but couldn’t. Many teachers were forced to find other work because they wanted job security and it was not clear when sports would reopen. Now we are trying to close that backlog by hiring new people and training them.
The Sporting House also launched a “Save Our Swimming Pools” campaign in early 2020, calling on local authorities to save public swimming pools from closure. A report from Swim England suggested that 2,000 swimming pools in England could be closed permanently by 2020.
Anyone interested in applying for a Swimming / Gymnastics Coach position can apply here.