CHESTER City Baths are hoping to help underprivileged children find a gateway into swimming with fully subsidised swimming lessons.

The government's holidays, activities and food programme provides local authorities with a grant to give children from low income families week-long intensive courses in basic water survival techniques, but the public baths on Union Street want to go a step further and provide children with the tools to become truly proficient.

Their extended course hopes to give children a level of comfort and safety in the water which will culminate in being able to swim a full length of the pool in wet clothing, a swimming proficiency test that ensures that they could get themselves out of a body of water, if they were to fall in.

Chester and District Standard: Chester City Baths is bathed within a traditional Victorian bath house, which has stood in Chester for over a century.Chester City Baths is bathed within a traditional Victorian bath house, which has stood in Chester for over a century.

Company Secretary, Trevor Warner said: "The difference is massive. At the end of the intensive course most of the kids can do a width but it's usually with some sort of support aid. Either a float or some armbands, they can do a stroke, but they haven't got the idea of floating.

"At the end of this eighteen month course they will be able to do a full length with their pyjamas on. Which is to simulate being able to get themselves out of a river with clothes on.

"Whilst there's a small amount of money available to get kids started with these intensive programmes, and it is better than nothing, it by no means at all makes them proficient in the water."

The Baths are currently raising money to provide pool hire and qualified lessons for up to 50 children over the course of around 18 months. Mr Warner is also clear that this can be the starting point through which children who may otherwise have missed out on swimming, can discover other opportunities.

"The brilliant thing is once you have a level of proficiency in the water, all sort of different aquatic activities [become available].

"Kids can join the swimming club to swim competitively, we have a scuba diving club here too. There's a triathlon club, so if the kids want to do running cycling and swimming, that club comes here as well.

"In terms of a long term journey for kids who perhaps don't have the greatest start in life, these are physical activities which they can get good at."

The scheme hopes to foster a sense of achievement and progression within the children. A successful trial run was able to help 15 children through a week of the learn-to-swim course during the Easter holidays and organisers are now looking to more than triple this number. Early plans are to have the groundwork in place for the new school year.

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