Friday, 22 April 2016

S is for Special School Swimming

Welcome to my posts for the A to Z Challenge 2016.
This year, I am posting 
Special School Stories
 tales from either my time as a teacher or teaching assistant within classrooms in the U.K. or from my own school days growing up around the country.

One of the things I am most proud of, during my time acting as a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator in a mainstream primary school, (and one I know followers of my blog have heard about before) is getting swimming lessons in a nearby Special School’s hydrotherapy pool for some of my pupils for free!  My school had to pay for the taxi to take them but the Special School allowed access to their pool for free and an authority occupational therapist with specialist swimming teacher skills was also able to allocate hours to this initiative meaning my school did not incur costs for her time either. 

The benefits to the children were immense during these sessions.  The warm water of the pool allowed them to stretch out their bodies much more than they could ever do in the classroom or at home.  The teaching of swimming was not only an enjoyable activity but it also improved their muscle strength and the warmth also relaxed muscle chords in their throats allowing much better speech after the session too.  The ability to take part in swimming was also great for them - they did not miss out on the opportunity that the rest of their class had when they went to the local swimming baths for lessons,  

The hydrotherapy pool had a walk in shelf that meant the children could get in and out of the pool much easier than trying to navigate steps or use a pool hoist.  The changing rooms also had a great deal more space which was essential when helping with dressing and undressing.

The arrangement came about when it became clear that some children would be unable to take part in swimming at the local baths due to the nature of their disabilities.  The extra time needed for changing and the small space provided plus the great difficulty getting in and out of the pool would mean the children would have about ten minutes in the pool if that.  So I decided to do something different and phoned the local Special School which had a pool on site and explained my problem. They offered the use of their pool for an hour and a half (at a time when they would not be needing it) for free as it would not increase any costs to themselves.  I then rang the O.T. that I knew well (who had worked with the children before and also worked with other SEN children in other schools) and told her of my plight but that I had secured the hydrotherapy pool so if she had other children who might benefit then they would be welcome too.  She was delighted at this and could therefore make it a session where she could teach swimming and would be able to do this without costs for any one school.

To my knowledge, these swimming sessions continue to this day benefiting not only my former school's pupils but others in the area too.

So now it's your turn to tell me about your experiences of swimming at school - did you love it or loathe it?  Did you have access to a swimming pool in your own school or did you have to travel somewhere?  Did you get the opportunity at all?  Leave a comment below and let me know :)


  1. At primary school we go to go to a local leisure centre, I remember the bag I used more than the swimming... At school we had a public leisure centre as part of the grounds so we got to use that pool.

    I didn't really like swimming at school because there was too much emphasis on speed and racing which I'm not the slightest bit interested in.

    Now I go swimming at a swimming group, that's a mix between people learning to swim as Adults, and people who are training for events... I am their equivalent of a blue rinse swimmer (breast stroke head up just pootling up and down the lane for pleasure).

    The lovely thing is it's in a private school, so huge pool, not many of us using it, and has glass side looking out to the playing fields with lots of trees, at this time of year I swim half my lengths watching the sun sink behind the trees... now those swimming sessions I will *always* remember.

    Mars xx
    @TrollbeadBlog from
    Curling Stones for Lego People

  2. Lovely post. What I appreciated was how your original idea to benefit your class expanded out to help many others. I was self-taught and still love the water. I was about 11 and remember swimming in a popular lake when I saw a kid go down right in front of me. No time to do anything but try to lug him to shore. He was bigger than me, but we made it!

  3. So nice you had a program for special needs kids. I love to swim as a kid and adult. So joyous and freeing.

  4. Lovely post! My school was extremely small, so no swimming. But we made up for it at the City Park's Recreation center in summer. It was a love/hate relationship, but I stuck with it for over 10 years and went through every class they offered, so I don't regret a moment.

  5. When I was in high school (back in the Dark Ages) we had to take one year of swimming along with PE at the local YMCA which was right next door. I HATED it. It was my first hour class. I had long, straight hair (carefully made that way with large orange juice cans). We wore those hideous bathing caps that did NOT keep the water out. I walked around like a drowned rat the rest of the day!!

  6. The first three years it was great because that school had a shallower pool and warmer water, I have always been a person who gets cold easily. But then I changed schools and they had an ordinary huge swimming pool which I found daunting and could and noisy and huge. I am not that good of a swimmer either. But now as an adult I do water aerobics at the local swimming pool, I just wish the water was warmer because it still hurts my joints... And good job on getting that swimming pool time for those kids I am sure that means a lot!

  7. What a wonderful thing you did! That's great. :)

    Yvonne V

  8. What a wonderful thing you did! That's great. :)

    Yvonne V