As 2022 comes to a close, we reflect on what has been a difficult year for so many. Swim schools and teachers started the year with fresh hope of trying to recover from the pandemic, only to be hit with the energy crisis which led to increased pool hire costs. Swim schools however found they were busier than ever – hundreds of thousands of displaced swimmers due to the pandemic and council pool closures resulted in the desperate need for more swimming teachers to help shift the backlog.
STAnd Up for Swimming, the charity initiative by the STA to train swimming teachers for free in 2022, came at the right time. More than ever swim schools needed support and the STA was at hand to provide it. According to the latest stats, more than 900 new swimming teachers were trained on STAnd Up for Swimming courses, of which 75% have already found employment, with the remaining teachers actively seeking employment. A HALF have been employed by the swim school that originally nominated them or by the facility where they received the training! 70% were NEW to the leisure industry and more than a THIRD said that they’d always wanted to become a swimming teacher but couldn’t afford the training – STAnd Up for Swimming gave them this opportunity. A FIFTH hadn’t thought about a career in swimming teaching until they saw the STAnd Up for Swimming campaign. I think we can all agree that the initiative was a massive success and swim schools are extremely grateful to CEO Dave Candler for the idea and the team at Anchor House for bringing it to fruition. A huge thank you as well to our headline sponsors Think Smart, co-sponsors Konfidence and the generous donation from Chris Gillman on behalf of the Aldershot Youth SC.
The support did not end with STAnd Up for Swimming though….
Disability awareness and inclusivity were high on the agenda for the STA team this year following the publication of the industry’s first Inclusive Workforce Study. In June, the STA joined the Everyone Can Taskforce, which has been set up to boost opportunities for disabled people in the industry. A new CPD to help swimming teachers provide inclusive swim opportunities for Deaf learners, reduced training prices for STA members with Autism Swim, and the ongoing focus of the Breaking Barriers project were important initiatives for the industry – as well as the partnership with Level Water. The STA even moved to help save the environment by introducing plastic-free portfolios on training courses. Plus, STA signed up for the Good Work Pledge, created by Workplace Mental Wealth.
Partnerships such as Kangaroo Beach, Lakes to London and Myrtha Pools, as well as initiatives such as the Arun swimming programme and the Swim to the Beat Campaign were successfully launched and many will continue into 2023, and hopefully beyond. We were also pleased to welcome a host of new Swim Academies, Swim Stars and swim school partners.
The key players within the industry were listening and watching and as a result, STA was delighted to have been named by ukactive as 2022 Awards Finalists for Supplier of the Year and Education Provider of the Year, the latter of which they would go on to win, announced at the ukactive awards at the end of June. They were also highly commended in the Supplier of the Year category. Being recognised and honoured in such a way is a testament to the hard work everyone at the STA puts in, and always with the members’ interests at the forefront of the decisions they make. Another finalist position was announced in September with the news that the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) had recognised the STA was exceptional in their contribution to education and skills development in the UK over the last 12 months. Whilst they didn’t win the overall award, they are still exceptionally proud of being named finalists. The awards/certificate table in Dave’s office is starting to grow!
There was another reason to celebrate this year when the STA reached its 90th anniversary of the charity launching and the full story of the founder, Ross Eagle, was uncovered and announced – a fascinating story that really brought home the reason why the charity was started and still exists, with the same values today as back then. An award in Ross Eagle’s honour was unveiled for an individual who had gone above and beyond for swimming during their career. and it was my honour to present this later in the year at the STA conference, to Richard Bright of Rushmore Youth Swimming. A second award, in honour of Henry Pike, another key figure in the early days of the charity forming, was also announced and this was also presented at the STA conference, to Shelley Whitehead of HALF Fish Swimming.
And talking of the conference…..wasn’t it wonderful to be back! With more than 280 attendees over the two days, it was the biggest conference to date and what a fabulous time we all had – it was fantastic to see lots of new (and young!) faces attending – the next generation of teachers are here! I must say I felt very old at times!!
In my speech and because it was the first face-to-face conference in two years, I recapped on the pandemic and how all of us felt lost when planning our return to work in a very different world, but how our Governing Body was there when we needed them. Dave Candler was accessible to members – at the end of the phone 24/7. His management team also worked all hours to ensure members felt supported and reassured. It was a time when we needed regular and reassuring communication from a Governing Body, and we certainly got it from the STA. I asked everyone at the conference to stand and join me in giving Dave, his management team, and everyone at the STA a round of applause for their hard work, commitment, and sacrifices during this period. The noise was deafening in the room and the applause seemed to go on forever…..well deserved and much appreciated.
And…..when we didn’t think the STA could do anything more for members, they froze prices on membership, certificates, and course fees for the eleventh year in a row! And to top it all off, they launched the STAmp out VAT campaign which is still a very active campaign and one we hope all our members will continue to support until we get the results we so desperately need.
What will 2023 bring? Well, if you heard my conference speech, you will recall I mentioned a little something about Dave. He has a habit of often using three phrases. The first is “leave it with me” which usually means he will be rallying his team together imminently to set wheels in motion. The second is “we’re on it” which means that there’s already a plan in place. The third is “I have an idea…….” and it’s this phrase that we all look forward to because we know whatever that idea will be, it will certainly lead to the Swimming Teachers’ Association STAnding up for its members again!
It leaves me to say a huge thank you to everyone at Anchor House for their hard work this year in supporting members, partners, and suppliers. To the Trustees Dave Lewis, Joanne Bradshaw, Ayo Akinwolere, and Mike Walters, thank you for your continued support. Finally, to our members and partners, especially our main sponsor Zoggs – thank you for your unwavering support and dedication to the STA. The charity is making massive waves in the industry and that’s not just down to the team at Anchor House – it’s also down to you and our STA Brand Ambassadors. Let’s carry this support through to 2023 and make it our best year yet.