FURIOUS parents and teachers have slammed a move forcing schools to pay for youngsters to receive potentially life-saving swimming lessons.
Carmarthenshire County Council imposed the charges in a bid to save £200,000, but the move has been branded “a disgrace”.
Primary schools will from September be charged £2 per child for children as young as four to be taught to swim.
“The government is constantly trying to encourage healthy children, but the council has decided to cut funding to one of the most important and enjoyable aspects of a child’s life,” said one Amman Valley teacher, who asked not to be named.
“Learning to swim is not only fun and healthy, it is also a vital life-saving skill that everyone should know.
“For the council to charge schools is nothing short of a disgrace.
“This will cost primary schools a small fortune, but they have no choice but to pay.”
The costs of maintaining the county’s swimming pools has previously been met by the leisure department of the local authority, however, the new policy to charge schools for every child using the pool was agreed last autumn.
The council claimed an “extensive public consultation programme” found 48.7 percent of the public agreed with charging schools while only 39.9 percent were against.
A council spokesperson said the authority would still meet part of the cost of swimming lessons.
“The charges are based on the subsidised hourly rate charged for pool hire and not the cost of actually providing the facility, which is far higher and again borne by the leisure division,” said the spokesman.
“School swimming has undergone a fundamental review with regard to how Key Stage 2 swimming was delivered.
“One of the main changes was to introduce three-week block lessons, resulting in the number of children aged eleven who can swim 25 metres unaided in Carmarthenshire increasing from 38per cent in 2009 to 82per cent present.
“Schools cannot charge for curriculum delivery but can ask for a voluntary contribution from parents or guardians."
“They cannot opt out of swimming provision.
“The county’s five leisure centres have been contact - ing schools this year, indi - cating the time allocation that has been set out for respective schools and seeking responses for con - firmation of attendance.