A survey carried out this month by the STA, a national governing body for swimming, has revealed that more than a quarter of swimming teachers in the UK have received little or no government funding during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result, nearly a half of all the swim school owners STA surveyed said they have lost swimming teachers and that this will have a financial impact on their business – as well as impacting on how many children they are able to teach now, and more so when social distancing measures are relaxed.
Dave Candler, STA’s CEO, said; “Even prior to COVID, there was a huge shortage of trained swimming teachers in the UK, and this research confirms what we thought, that the pandemic has further exacerbated the issue for swim schools all over the country – one swim school owner alone reported via the survey, that they have lost 105 of their swimming teachers.”
While the survey shows that the lack of government funding for the self-employed and the uncertainty of furlough at the back end of 2020 is the main reason as to why many swimming teachers are not returning to the pool (because they have found alternative employment in other sectors that were able to stay open), STA state that the other biggest barrier for swim schools at the moment is hiring pools.
For many, when you think of swimming, you think of the large council-run leisure centres, but in the UK today, the private swim school market, who operate independently out of hotel, health club or school pools for example, represents a huge proportion of the learn to swim market.
“These swim schools wholly rely on hiring external pools, but many of these pools, understandably because of COVID, are not yet allowing third-party companies back in to re-hire the pool. This means that many swim schools have not been able to open or fully open since March 2020, and thus they’ve not been able to always guarantee when swimming teachers can return to work. Plus, social distancing in the pool has naturally reduced class sizes, which has meant reduced income and reduced hours for some swimming teachers too – all adding to the reasons as to why swimming teachers who’ve been unable to access sufficient funding (mainly those who were self-employed) have needed to find employment elsewhere.”
“Looking ahead, the industry will have to pull together and go on a huge recruitment drive to fill the teaching gap caused by the pandemic; because once social distance measures are relaxed and more pool hirers start to reopen, there are going to be even longer waiting lists for swimming lessons if there are not enough teachers to meet demand. And, with school swimming in decline too, many hundreds of thousands of parents are / will be reliant on private swim schools for teaching their child how to swim,” confirmed Dave.
*STA is a registered charity dedicated to the saving of lives through swimming teaching and lifesaving, and this survey was undertaken in April 2021 with 312 UK swim schools who combined teach thousands of babies, children and adults to learn how to swim every week.