Rebecca Adlington and Mark Foster urge schools to offer swimming lessons during visit to St Albans

Swim stars Rebecca Adlington and Mark Foster at Westminster Lodge

Swim stars Rebecca Adlington and Mark Foster at Westminster Lodge - Credit: Archant

Schools across England need to follow the lead of Australia and America when it comes to teaching youngsters to swim, according to Rebecca Adlington and Mark Foster, who visited St Albans yesterday (Tuesday).

During a trip to Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre to celebrate the 125th anniversary of school swimming lessons, the swimmers wore Victorian costumes, hosted a lesson for local pupils, and spoke to the media about the importance of school swimming.

In a poolside interview with the Herts Advertiser, here is what the duo said:

Q: What was it like going back 125 years and wearing such ‘glamorous’ outfits?

Rebecca: “It’s honestly cool to get dressed up and doing all these demonstrations. It’s amazing to see how much school swimming has come along in that time, but also, it’s a celebration more than anything else.

“It’s about us guys, the more corporate ones if you like, trying to encourage as much school swimming as possible.”

Mark: “The thing is, while highlighting that swimming has been around for that period of time, on the flip side is that when you look at statistics and figures, about half of the kids still get to the age of 11, and they can’t swim 25 metres.

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“We are further back now than we were back then.

Q: Why are there fewer children swimming here than in Australia and America?

Rebecca: “I think it’s not taken seriously - because the schools don’t do it.

Mark: “It’s budget.”

Rebecca: “It is on the national curriculum, but Ofsted don’t measure it, so if Ofsted don’t measure it, the schools think ‘well, it won’t affect our Ofsted, so we won’t bother’.

“That is the problem, whereas in Australia, and everywhere else, it is measured, it’s guaranteed.

Mark: “It’s a given that if we had the climate of Australia [people would be encouraged to swim more]. God knows we are an island nation. We are surrounded by water, lakes and rivers in this country.

“People love going by the sea on holiday, they go to water on their holidays – swimming is a life skill, it should be a given in life that you learn to swim.

“Unless swimming lessons are available and pools are made available, how do kids learn to swim?

Rebecca: “Also, the Australian swimmers are a bit more, celebrities if you like. Over here there are only a few of us [in the media]. But in Australia they are on TV, in the papers.

“Over here, it is not in the media enough. So people kind of forget about it.”

Mark: “They are more into footballers aren’t they? If you ask anybody to think back to their swimming lessons, they say that they loved them, they remember it. It’s a confidence builder.

“I always think of kids at schools in situations whereby you are learning lessons from 9am till 3.30pm every day, and if you take a child out of the classroom and give them a bit of exercise, their brains are more alert and they are more willing to learn.

“While learning to swim is important because it can save a life, there are so many positives it is a no-brainer that they should have the opportunity.”

Q: What do you think about St Albans’ Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre?

Mark: “I know it because I live just down the road, in Radlett; I have been living there now for three years.

Rebecca: “It’s amazing, absolutely incredible. Although it’s been open for a few years, it just seems so new. It’s great, because it obviously has a big pool as well. There is so much space, especially the children’s pool.”

Mark: “We have been to a lot of pools over the years, and this is great.”