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Free swimming lessons for kids should be provided by the State

PUBLISHED: 12:55 14 December 2018

All children should be given swimming lessons, says Nick Conrad

All children should be given swimming lessons, says Nick Conrad

Archant

Nick Conrad wonders whatever happened to Sport for All?

This week’s column is being penned whilst sitting on the side of a swimming pool.

I’m watching my daughter splashing around in the water.

She’s learning to swim and having a ball!

Her excellent teacher Philip blends games and teaching and in turn my daughter’s water confidence is coming on leaps and bounds.

Swimming and other sports lessons should be available to all children.

For many families the costs are prohibitive, especially when you combine entry fees to pools, gyms and clubs with lessons.

Could a new National Voucher scheme be the answer?

As any parent of young athletes knows, having your children participate in sports can bring its own challenges.

There’s getting them to and from practice and games, making sure they have the necessary equipment, ensuring they still make school a priority and, for many parents, funding it all can be a little daunting.

However, by getting your children into sport at the earliest opportunity it can result in massive lifestyle improvements.

I have a simple idea that could make a difference.

A little book delivered through every family’s door.

Imagine if we had a ‘The National Health Voucher Book’.

Businesses could apply to place a discount voucher within the booklet, but only if they were promoting wholesome, healthy activities like sports, playing musical instruments, dance or the arts.

The cost to the public purse would be offset by businesses subsidising schemes to increase participation and the long-term savings from a healthier society.

This would be a massive social investment at limited cost to the taxpayers.

Businesses, big and small, would clamour to be involved in a scheme that not only introduces them to so many potential future customers but also guarantees a cash injection.

And remember that where the little ones go…the parents follow boosting the coffers!

What’s not to like about this idea?

Sport, whether team-based or individual, provides a variety of benefits other than physical activity.

Participation in sports can help build self-esteem and confidence, can motivate children to excel academically and can help build social skills. Participation can also teach children the benefits of goalsetting.

Additionally, anything that keeps children away from their iPhones and other screens is another big victory for society.

The sad reality is that most children these days are hopelessly addicted to their screens.

Sport would refocus their minds onto something far more constructive.

For this to work it needs to be affordable and attainable.

For a capital injection in line with some contentious benefits - ‘sweeteners’ placed in manifestos, a blatant bid to coax support from the electorate - you could really help the population and look to establish a new culture of participation in sport and improved diet.

In many European countries, access to clubs and sporting activities are discounted.

It’s no surprise that in these countries the national waistline is slimmer and the health outcome for their youngsters’ rosier.

My daughter has just left the pool full of glee.

She’s once again thoroughly enjoyed her lesson and I can see her confidence growing.

My small investment in my daughter’s future should be mirrored by the Government, ensuring schemes like the one I’ve outlined above, are available for all children.

If I put all three of my children through swimming lessons it would cost £45 a week!

It’s not uncommon for someone to have three children, it is only the lucky few who will have a salary that can accommodate spending that kind of money!

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