Parents speak out over future of Eaton Primary swimming pool

Local residents and parents of Eaton primary school are upest at plans to close the school swimming

Local residents and parents of Eaton primary school are upest at plans to close the school swimming pool.PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

It is a dispute that has pitted parents campaigning to save a swimming pool against school leaders who say scarce resources should be spent more effectively.

Eaton Primary School swimming pool.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Eaton Primary School swimming pool.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Eaton Primary School has told parents its pool would be closed 'until further notice', with £25,000 needed for essential maintenance, and longer-term modernisation costing £95,000 to £107,000.

It said Year 3 would swim at the University of East Anglia's Sportspark pool up to the spring half-term, and Year 4 after then, and there would be 'additional provision' for pupils who could not swim the recommended 25m by the end of their time at school.

Now, parents who want to keep the pool have released comments from people who took part in an online survey about its future.

Here, we quote a selection of views, together with a response from Tony Hull, chief executive of the Evolution Academy Trust, which sponsors the school.

Eaton Primary School. Headteacher Allan Lowe, left, and Tony Hull, head of Evolution Academy Trust.

Eaton Primary School. Headteacher Allan Lowe, left, and Tony Hull, head of Evolution Academy Trust.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

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'My y6 child has swum in the pool since he was in reception. This experience has created in him a real love for swimming and has provided him with excellent swimming skills along with a huge general fitness and health benefit. Having two younger children at the school who have experienced so much less swimming I can really see what a great benefit to him his experience has been. A pool at the school offers such opportunities for the children in terms of their fitness and health which must also be of benefit for their learning. From a community point of view there are also huge benefits of having a local swimming pool if it were made available.'

'I think it's a shame that the school and academy trust do not want parental involvement. It feels like parents views are not welcome in school but research shows that children succeed where there is a strong relationship between school, teacher, parent and child.'

'To be honest I fully accept the costs involved in keeping the pool running and have no issue with it closing.'

'As a parent helper for swimming, I saw the progression of reception children who were nervous & crying develop into happy confident swimmers by Year 2. The pool is invaluable for teaching the children a potential life saving skill.'

Academy trust responds

Tony Hull, chief executive of the Evolution Academy Trust, which sponsors Eaton Primary, said: 'With respect to the views of others, the school is being professionally led by its management team with the full support of a successful trust, and we have explained, and we are happy to explain again, that financially it's not a viable option as a priority currently.

'We have to ensure that any money we can release to be spent on property improvements has to be prioritised, so, for instance, we are desperately trying to get money from the Condition Improvement Fund to repair the school roof. Therefore the trust and school would say it's far better to ensure that children are warm and dry in their lessons, and can learn, than they go swimming every day.

'We can understand why parents might want to fundraise, and trying to raise £120,000 now just to get you back to square one might be achieved, but that does not take account of the fact that it will need significant ongoing support for years and years and years afterwards.'

'Many of the long term more mature residents of Eaton Village gave a lot of time and effort to fund the pool and help with building this back in the 1970s. The school should not lose sight of the role of the community in enabling a pool in the first place and should seek all possible routes to keep the facility open and available.'

'I would like the pool to remain open. It was part of the reason I picked this school in the first place. I have three children currently in Eaton primary: two in school, one in pre-school, who all would benefit from the swimming lessons on site. I want all my children to be able to swim before they head up to high school and I would also consider using the pool if it was on a hire out basis. I think it is a great asset to the school and I will not be happy if the school shut it down.'

'It is so important and such a vital life skill. I love swimming thanks to this pool and the swimming teachers. My boyfriend attended a different school in Norwich with no pool and he now cannot swim. That means beach and pool holidays are off the agenda and he can be nervous around water. The difference between us is obvious and this all stems from our backgrounds. Public pools and swimming lessons can be expensive, children rely on these facilities!!'

'When I have attended I thought the pool was dated and a little sad, but it has potential to be much better and should not simply be written off. It should be (and could be) an asset to the school and the community.'

'I moved my children to Eaton Primary in part because of the pool and swimming provision. Once the pool is closed it's unlikely to ever be opened again and I don't believe the management have fully considered the long term consequences of their actions. The pool is an asset and shouldn't be so carelessly discarded.'

'I learnt to swim in the pool when I was in reception over 30 years ago. I always talk about how wonderful it was to have a swimming pool at school. Could it be opened for private hire at weekends? I would be keen to use it in that way.'

'The school should aspire to deliver more than the minimum swimming provision so that all pupils get the opportunity to swim throughout their time there. More priority needs to be given to swimming as a means of keeping healthy and learning an important life skill. Chargeable use of the pool outside of school hours and during school holidays could be a source of funding to help cover costs.'