A proposal to change council involvement in school swimming services across Northamptonshire has been made and will be discussed by both authorities.
North and West Northamptonshire Councils will discuss the proposal that could see the system to access school swimming lessons streamlined. It is expected the new proposal will be more cost-effective for the councils.
According to the councils, currently only 33 percent of schools utilise the council swimming service and the rest – the majority - book directly with pools and leisure providers.
The system for school swimming lessons through the council is a non-statutory function for local authorities as it is the responsibility of each individual school to provide swimming services for its students. The demand for which has changed over the years.
With fewer schools using the service, in 2021/2022 it ran at a forecasted deficit of £32,474.
A decision on the future of the council-run service is set to be taken by North and West Northamptonshire Councils’ Shared Service Joint Committee next Wednesday (July 13).
Councillor Helen Howell deputy leader of North Northamptonshire Council said: “Times change and increasingly schools are going directly to pools to arrange their lessons as it's easier for them to do so.
“Our proposals will make the service less complicated to use which is better for schools and pools, while at the same time reducing the financial risk to the councils.
“By timing the changes to the end of the calendar year it gives schools and pools the autumn term to put alternative arrangements in place.”
If the recommendation is approved, North and West Northamptonshire Councils will no longer be providers of school swimming lessons, effective from December 31, 2022.
The change would:
-Allow schools to deal directly with pool providers to negotiate pool space and times that are accessible to them.
-Ensure schools are able to access pools that are nearest to them.
-Improve communication between schools and pool providers without having to go through a council managed system.
-Ensure that the service does not run at a deficit for NNC and WNC.
Councillor Adam Brown, West Northamptonshire Council’s deputy leader added: “Many schools value having swimming lessons, and we hope that these changes will make it easier to incorporate swimming into their timetable and find a pool that is accessible to them.
“Should the committee decide to progress this recommendation, we’ll make sure all schools are kept fully informed and updated on future service changes and what these mean for them.”
If the recommendation is approved by the Shared Service Joint Committee, a full consultation with the staff affected by this proposal will be launched soon. This will give them the opportunity to raise any other suggestions that we may have not considered.
If the results of the consultation support this decision, where possible staff will be supported to find alternative positions within the councils.