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West Lothian Leisure recognised at national awards

Xcite commended at aquatic celebration for programme expansion

A Leisure Trust’s efforts to increase the number of children learning to swim in West Lothian and commitment to delivering a quality learn to swim environment has been celebrated at a national award ceremony, attended by some of Scotland’s all-time swimming greats.

Xcite was recognised as Learn to Swim Provider of the Year at Scottish Swimming’s annual awards night as it increased capacity of youngsters learning to swim from 4,479 in May 2021 to more than 5,836 in August 2022 – resulting in an additional 1300 children attending lessons every week with a further 150 children to join the programme in October as the programme expands further.

The category – which is sponsored by Scottish Water – praised the provider for how it used the pandemic to address challenges impacting programme growth and recruitment of swimming teachers.

The awards celebrate local authorities, leisure trusts and aquatic providers delivering the Learn to Swim framework across Scotland – a partnership between Scottish Swimming and Scottish Water that has helped more than 100,000 children become confident swimmers.

Karen Wernham, Head of Operations at Xcite, said: “To have been able to get more youngsters in the pool, learning to swim and loving and respecting the water, is what it is all about.

“The Learn to Swim programme has gone from strength to strength across all of our sites. It’s a proud moment to have the work and commitment of our team recognised on a national platform.

“When our leisure centres closed during the pandemic, we took the time to address how we could improve our services for both customers and staff.

“One of the key challenges we have faced is recruitment and developing a new workforce. To combat this, we have introduced new initiatives to encourage unqualified teachers into the industry including teacher training, mentoring and buddy systems.

“It’s been brilliant to see an increase in children learning to swim at our sites and we’re now operating ahead of pre-pandemic levels. It’s fundamental that doesn’t stop here and we continue to push forward with growth and equip more children with the skills they need.

“At an exciting period of growth for Xcite, we would encourage anyone wishing to become a swim teacher to get in touch for further information.”

Xcite operates the Learn to Swim programme in Armadale, Bathgate, Broxburn, Linlithgow, Livingston, Whitburn, Deans High school and Winchburgh Wellness Hub (from Monday 3 October).

The Scottish Water Learn to Swim Provider of the Year Award has been running for five years and recognises the effort of providers in creating and delivering high quality lessons providing youngsters with essential life skills to keep safe in and around water.

Euan Lowe, Chief Executive Officer at Scottish Swimming, said: “The awards acknowledge achievements of the whole aquatic community and highlight the outstanding work that is displayed on a daily basis to increase the opportunity for even more children and adults to learn to swim.

“The judging panel praised Xcite for creating a fun and inclusive programme which is vital to ensure youngsters are motivated to take part. The initiatives to promote teacher development and retention are inspiring as we continue to feel the aftershock of losing teachers during the pandemic.”

In attendance was Learn to Swim programme ambassadors and swim superstars, Scotland’s all-time top medal-winning Commonwealth athlete Duncan Scott and Paralympian Toni Shaw – who are both passionate about creating a generation of confident, safer and competent swimmers.

Both ambassadors will visit Xcite to congratulate the team on their award win and take part in a lesson which will provide the opportunity to share stories about their swim journey to date with youngsters in the area.

Brian Lironi, Director of Corporate Affairs with Scottish Water, said: “Learning to swim is such an important safety skill and it’s vital the basics are learned at an early age. The national framework equips youngsters will skills and knowledge to be safe in and around water.

“Xcite’s team effort to expand the programme is truly remarkable and is directly playing a vital part in ensuring there are no barriers to youngsters across West Lothian learning to swim.”

The shortlisted finalists included East Renfrewshire Culture and Leisure Trust and Fife Sport and Leisure Trust. Both have been commended for their dedication to increase the number children and adults learning to swim and delivering a quality environment.

A total of 36 Leisure Trusts and Aquatic Providers provide Learn to Swim lessons in more than 160 pools. The programme has already seen more than 100,000 young Scots take part in swimming lessons and is targeting another 100,000 by 2025.

 

The next chapter of Learn to Swim will build a real legacy for Scotland – improving water safety, and, through working with schools and local authorities, giving all children a real platform for success and to achieve their full potential in the pool and out.

 

For more information on the Learn to Swim programme, visit the learn to swim website.

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