Free Swim Programme Makes Giant Splash with Schools
Free Swim Programme Makes Giant Splash with Schools as It Marks Milestone of 500,000th Free Lesson
Wednesday, 25 September 2013: An 8-year-old Aucklander was the recipient of the Community Swim programme’s 500,000th free swimming lesson today, as the flagship project of Sir John Walker’s Find Your Field of Dreams Foundation (FYFOD) marked a major milestone.
Joining Sir John at the 500,000th swim lesson featuring Point View School youngsters at the Lloyd Elsmore Park Pool & Leisure Centre in Pakuranga, was Auckland Mayor Len Brown who helped the Olympic legend and Auckland Councillor launch his foundation back in May 2008.
Since then more than 50,000 youngsters have benefited from the Foundation’s ground-breaking programme designed to provide FREE swim lessons to primary schools in Auckland’s south. At Lloyd Elsmore Pool this afternoon the honour of being the 500,000th free swim lesson participant fell to 8-year-old Kairyn Andrews who was presented with a special gold cap by Mayor Len.
Point View School which embraced the project in its first full year, 2009, now has more than 500 youngsters from 19 classrooms participating in the programme.
What started as a ‘pilot’ programme for Year 3 pupils at Wakaaranga and Yendarra Primary Schools in term two 2008 grew to 21 schools by the end of that year.
Now, with generous support from The Lion Foundation, the FYFOD programme has been extended to include Year 4, 5 and 6 pupils from 84 primary schools across Auckland’s south. This year the number of lessons taught is expected to top 120,000.
“Our children are our future and it is impossible to overestimate the importance of what has been achieved here,” says Len Brown. “I don’t think anyone back in 2008 could have imagined that we might get to this point.”
“This is a real credit to the vision of Sir John Walker, the energy of the Foundation’s board and staff and the enthusiasm of the schools and the pools involved.
“Coupling free swimming lessons with free
entry for children to our pools across Auckland is a massive
achievement, and I look forward to the work of Sir John’s
Foundation spreading to all parts of the new
The Community Swim programme is a partnership with Auckland Council, Swimgym and The Lion Foundation which meets the cost of the FREE swim lessons and also provides funding for four branded FYFOD buses which transport the pupils to and from school to public pools.
FYFOD General Manager Rick Pickard says the Foundation has been fortunate that its programme delivery and funding partners “have shared our vision of providing the opportunities for young people to pursue their sporting dream. We are very grateful for the continued support of Auckland Council, The Lion Foundation and the professional instructors at Swimgym who deliver these lessons.”
“The feedback we get from the schools that take part in the programme, teachers and parents is incredibly positive. The most recent survey shows that 98% of the pupils report they feel more confident in the water and almost 90% have improved their swimming ability as a result of their involvement in Community Swim. Schools report the programme is extremely well run and highly effective.”
A number of swimming clubs in Auckland’s south have also had an increase in junior membership since the introduction of Community Swim, some by as much as 20%. According to Mr Pickard “this tells us that while Find Your Field of Dreams is based in the south, Sir John’s vision of providing youngsters with the opportunity to engage in sport and recreational activity can work with equal success elsewhere.”
Foundation founder, Sir John Walker, is hugely encouraged by the results the Community Swim programme is achieving. “Swimming is an essential life skill, he says.” In the south, where many youngsters don’t have access to pools or swimming lessons, we identified Community Swim as a priority. The feedback from pupils, parents and teachers has been amazing."
“And while pool capacity can be an issue because of the success and popularity of the programme, this has been partly resolved with the purchase of a portable pool and we are looking to expand our portable pool resources to enable the Foundation to deliver free swim lessons to young people in Auckland’s areas of greatest need.”