Hello SwimPals, and welcome back to our blog series! My name is Georgie, expert goggle-tightener, enthusiastic bubble-blower, specialist swimming-cap-putter-onner and most importantly . . . long-term swimming teacher.
I will be posting a weekly blog right here on the SwimPal website to share with you:
So, without further ado, let’s dive into this week’s topic (as always, apologies – terrible swimming puns are an occupational hazard) . . .
“So, all pools are open again? Everything’s back to normal?”
“Sadly not. The Covid-19 virus is still very much present and although some pools have reopened, swim schools wishing to return to lessons have a lot of safety and infection control measures to consider.”
“Okay, but the Government has issued clear and extensive guidance to help swim schools return to lessons and ensure they are providing a safe and low-risk environment for their swimmers, right?”
“Erm, well, not exactly . . .”
If anything above sounds or feels familiar, do not fret. I can assure you, we are all feeling the same way.
To put it lightly, these are confusing times for all and, despite our excellent water safety skills, the swim school community has been swept out into the sea of uncertainty along with everybody else.
Yes, the Government has issued some guidance for sport and leisure facilities, but I wouldn’t say it’s ‘extensive’ in relation to swimming lessons.
No, not ALL pools are open. Although both indoor and outdoor pools have officially been given the green light to reopen, there are a number of reasons why some pools remain closed.
So, what should we do?
Where can we turn for up-to-date and science-based information?
Luckily for you, I have taken the liberty of looking through all of the resources and I’m going to take you through the information that’s available.
Warning: There is A LOT to read through and it’s nowhere near as gripping as Harry Potter.
Top Tip: It IS extremely important, however, so make sure you designate plenty of time to this task (I’m talking DAYS) and take lots of breaks!
Don’t try to do it all in one chunk – you’ll become overwhelmed and you won’t take it all in.
Take your time and be kind to yourself.
These are tricky times.
First things first, you need to find out if the pool or pools you use is/are open for business.
As previously mentioned, there are a number of reasons why some pools may remain closed. These include:
Due to the changeable nature of these circumstances, it is important that swim schools check with their local council, operator or pool-owner about the opening arrangements for their pool.
So, you’ve checked with your pool operator and they’re ready to welcome your swim school back with socially distanced arms.
Now, it’s time to familiarise yourself with the guidance for sport and leisure facilities that has been issued by the UK Government.
So, the information provided on the UK Gov website wasn’t the MOST comprehensive set of guidelines for swim schools but it was a good place for us to start.
We now have a better understanding of the Government guidance pertaining to sport, gym and leisure facilities in general and our risk assessment caps are ON.
If you’re worried about having to translate the Government guidance into specific actions needed to be taken by YOUR swim school, don’t be.
Swim England and the STA have done the hard part for us. They have both published guidance specific to swim schools and, let me tell you, they have thought of EVERYTHING.
First, let’s take a look at the comprehensive Returning to the Pool Guidance that has been published by Swim England.
Next, let’s read through the very informative and extensive Covid-19 Guidance in Preparation for UK Swim Schools Reopening Pools issued by the STA.
Phew! I told you we had a lot to get through. Still, there’s nothing like a 60-page pdf document all about risk assessment to induce a natural high!
Whilst you’re still enjoying the buzz, now is probably a good time to take a break (especially if you haven’t had one already).
As I mentioned, Swim England and the STA really have thought of everything so you might feel like you’ve got all the information you needed from those two documents.
However, if there are still a few things you’re not sure about (or you’ve discovered a new-found love for Covid-19 and swimming-related literature), I’ve included some additional resources below.
Here are some additional resources provided by Swim England:
Here is a list of additional resources provided by the STA:
This article by The Huffington Post might also interest you: ‘Can You Catch Covid-19 In A Swimming Pool?’
Now we are Covid-19 experts and would probably give Chris Whitty a run for his money, it’s time to write a comprehensive risk assessment specific to YOUR swim school.
The STA has been brilliant yet again and has commissioned ‘Right Directions’, specialists in health and safety management, to create bespoke risk assessment templates for swim schools.
The templates are available to download for FREE from the STA Online Resource Area (it’s free to register for an account).
You may also want to create information posters to be placed around the pool and changing room areas to remind your customers of the new measures.
Remember: If your swim school teaches from more than one swimming pool, you need to make sure you have completed a risk assessment for each location (specific to the staff, space, facilities and resources available at the time of teaching).
Once you’ve completed your risk assessment(s) and you are confident your swim school will be able to deliver swimming lessons in a Covid-19 secure way, it’s time to share the wonderful news with your customers.
Make sure you give them plenty of notice regarding the return to lessons and provide an easy, step-by-step guide on how to attend their new, Covid-19 secure swimming lessons.
It is also worth bearing in mind that, even though the official Government guidance states that swimming pools can open, some people may not yet feel comfortable returning to swimming or may struggle to do so due to financial or logistical reasons.
We’re almost there!
You’ve liaised with your pool operator . . . you’ve educated yourself on all things Covid-19 and swimming . . . you’ve written extensive risk assessments specific to your facilities . . . you’ve cried into your coco pops . . . you’ve contacted your customers to inform them of new measures . . . and you’ve received confirmation of who’s returning to lessons.
As you’ve given your customers plenty of notice regarding their return to lessons, you should now have a week or so to train your staff members. Haven’t we timed this perfectly?
As previously mentioned, the STA offer a FREE Covid-19 Officer Awareness Training programme online. You may want all of your staff members to complete this training before returning to lessons.
It is important that every member of staff is provided with a copy of the risk assessment and is fully aware of the information that has been provided to customers (so that everyone’s on the same page).
You may want to book some pool time to get your whole team together and go over logistics. A meeting (can be over a video call) may also be useful to go through the risk assessment(s) together and field any questions your staff members may have.
Finally! It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for.
You’ve done all the prep – there’s nothing left to do except get back to teaching the sport you love!
Make sure you’ve got all of the additional equipment and resources you need (hand sanitiser, spare masks, posters, tape for marking out social distancing and one-way foot traffic etc.).
There are bound to be some teething problems, as this stuff is new to everyone (staff and customers alike). Be patient and take the time to explain things to people who may have got something wrong.
It’s important that you keep up-to-date with the latest Government advice and remain flexible in your approach as you reach a system that works for you and your swimmers through a process of trial and error.
This has been a long time coming and I’m sure you’re just as eager to get back to teaching as I am.
So, what are your thoughts?
Do you feel ready to return to the pools and teach in a Covid-19 secure way?
Is there anything you’re particularly worried about or you think has been missed out by Swim England or the STA?
Maybe you’ve already returned to teaching? How are you finding it?
Please share your opinions, personal experiences and advice in the comments below . . . and if you have any questions or if there are any topics you’d like us to cover in future blogs, let us know.