From left to right: Belle Vue Park Primary School principal Paul Kenna and Natalie Wise, with Active Moreland YMCA staff Lisa Wilson and Centre Manager Shane Brodie.
YMCA Victoria in partnership with Moreland City Council facilitated a fully funded swimming program in school Terms 1 and 2 that saw almost 300 students from disadvantaged schools across the municipality take part.
Students from Croxton Special School, Oak Park Primary School and Belle Vue Park Primary school participated in the program which was held at Active Moreland aquatic and leisure facilities Brunswick Baths, Fawkner Leisure Centre and Coburg Leisure Centre.
The six session inclusive programs were held over five weeks, aimed at providing students with basic skills and safety in and around water.
Active Moreland YMCA Acting Area Manager Shane Brodie said the initiative was the result of local research that identified the needs of students from a group of disadvantaged schools in the Moreland municipality.
“Principals from the three schools were approached to discuss the program offering and all were very keen to be involved,” he said.
“The YMCA funded the cost of the program which was approximately $15,000, through our YMCA Open Doors initiative. Moreland City Council funded almost $6,000 for bus hire for school pick-ups and drop offs and this covered the entire cost of the program for the schools participating.”
“The program reached out to just under 300 students across special needs, primary and secondary students, and demonstrated the power of a partnership approach.”
As the largest provider of swimming lessons in Victoria, YMCA believes every child should have the opportunity to learn vital swimming and water safety skills regardless of location, physical capability, cultural background and socio-economic circumstances.
Each Active Moreland aquatic and leisure facility selected a school within its proximity that was recognised as being disadvantaged on an independent scale (ICSEA) or were placed in the bottom quartile of socio-economics in the Moreland municipality.
The main aim was to teach water safety in a fun environment, however it quickly developed more far reaching impacts including the empowerment of students, increased confidence and demonstrated team building.
The power of the initiatives benefited the schools, students and immediate family, and also had a strong impact on the staff teams delivering them.
Belle Vue Park Primary School Principal, Paul Kenna, said the program had been an outstanding success and had a positive impact on all students that took part.
“It was a huge success with 99 per cent attendance from our school. The cost of sending children to a swimming program is prohibitive for many of our families so the response to a sponsored program has been overwhelming,” he said.
“The pool and facilities were excellent and the staff were friendly, professional and patient with our students. It was great to see our students develop confidence in the water. The (awarding of) certificates capped off what was a brilliant initiative.”
Paul acknowledged the collaboration between the YMCA and Moreland Council that enabled the facilitation of the program.
Shane said that the Active Moreland YMCA team would review the project and look at ways of growing the initial free swimming for schools program with a view to influencing the integration of swimming as a compulsory component in the Victorian curriculum.