Wednesbury headteacher claims pupils’ safety ‘put at risk’ at Darlaston swimming pool
A primary school headteacher has hit out at a council-run swimming baths for allegedly ‘compromising’ the safety of children.
Old Church CE Primary School in School Street, Wednesbury, had previously been paying £130 once a week for exclusive access to the main pool at Darlaston Swimming Baths until the start of the new school year.
But the school has discovered this year that the money only covers the hiring out of four lanes of the pool, with members of the public allowed access to the rest of the pool, as well as the mixed changing rooms on site.
The school’s headteacher Davina Clacy has hit out at Walsall Council, which runs the baths, over the changes and has been supported by Darlaston South councillor and governor at the school Doug James.
Ms Clacy said: “I had been advised by Walsall Council that my children would not be swimming or changing with the public before our latest lesson.
“This money is already coming from a very tight budget but we are so concerned about the safety of our children that we agreed to pay this.
“However, my staff as well as the swimming coaches from Sharkeys, were alarmed that members of the public started getting into the pool when my children were still in there.
“There was also no segregation with my children and members of the public when changing.
“This is particularly alarming as the changing rooms at Darlaston are mixed. I have been inundated with complaints from parents and staff this morning.
“I raised this issue at the primary, nursery and special school’s forum of headteachers.
“They are all in agreement that the safety of our children is compromised and we strongly disagree with the decision by Walsall Council to allow the public to swim at the same time as the children of Walsall.
“As I have said on numerous occasions, this is an accident waiting to happen. Not only with the children at our school but what happens when a child makes an allegation towards a member of the public? There is nothing in the risk assessment addressing this. I am really alarmed by the situation.”
The swimming baths, located on Victoria Road were opened in November 2000 and include a 25m x 13.5m competition style pool, a 7m x 13.5m family and teaching pool, as well as a fitness centre and steam room.
Councillor Doug James, who represents the Darlaston area and is a governor at four schools in the town, including Old Church C of E Primary School, said: “The whole situation is not good enough as far as I am concerned.“The school is paying more for a lesser service, which doesn’t make sense because it is like the leisure section of the council is just taking money from schools funding given out by the council.
“What is most important, however, is the safety of our children and I think that what is happening here is not right, it is a problem that needs to be looked at.
“We all have a responsibility to keep our children safe in Walsall.”
A Walsall Council spokesperson said: “Walsall Council’s current practice is to allow school swimming and public swimming to take place simultaneously, with pool space and changing areas segregated and supervised.
This practice has been in place at Bloxwich Active Living Centre, Oak Park Active Living Centre and Walsall Gala Swimming and Fitness Centre since the new / refurbished facilities opened in 2016. Following the success of these arrangements they have been extended to Darlaston Swimming Pool from September 2017.”
“Shared usage is a common practice in swimming facilities in many (but not all) local authorities. Building design that provides segregated changing areas and programming that designates separate swimming areas allows shared usage to take place in a safe and controlled environment.”
“Children and adults routinely swim and change alongside each other in public swimming pools up and down the country. There will always be an inherent risk when children are undertaking an activity that requires them to change clothes. Child Protection is a clear priority for Sport & Leisure Services and careful, informed supervision successfully manages this risk.”
“The segregation of public and children’s changing and swimming spaces during school swimming sessions provides a further control measure for these sessions, over and above what is in place for “normal” public swimming sessions.”
“The alternative would be to exclude the public from the swimming pools throughout school swimming sessions. Across Sport & Leisure’s four sites there is a total of 46 hours of school swimming per week. Excluding the public from this amount of provision would be a major reduction in service provision to Walsall residents.”