July 24 2014 Latest news:
Lizzie Dearden, Senior reporter
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Crowds of schoolchildren turned out to greet Boris Johnson at Wanstead’s temporary pool today.
The Mayor of London was visiting as part of his Make a Splash programme, which has taken facilities to parts of London where access to swimming is difficult.
The pool was installed last month for 12 weeks to let schools hold lessons and residents use it in the evening.
Mr Johnson said: “I think it’s been proving very popular.
“It’s a tragedy that in London 60 per cent of children can’t swim a length.”
He learnt to swim while growing up in Camden in a pool “a quarter of the size” than the 12m one in Wanstead, he added.
Mr Johnson talked to children from Fairlop Primary School who were demonstrating their skills and met instructors and local councillors.
He congratulated the swimmers on their front crawl but declined to take a dip himself.
As he tried to leave, he was mobbed by older students from Wanstead High School taking “selfies” on their phones but took it all in good cheer.
The Mayor was joined by Olympic swimmer Steve Parry, who has been teaching children at temporary pools in the programme.
He said: “It was planned for regions like this one where people don’t have access to swimming.
“There is one pool for 290,000 people here and the sums just don’t add up.”
Make a Splash has taken temporary pools to 24 venues across London in the last three years, helping more than 21,500 people to learn to swim.
Fairlop Primary School headteacher Gail Brannan the scheme gave her pupils a chance to swim more regularly.
She added: “Before they started coming here none of those children were strong swimmers.
“It’s very relaxed here and the teachers are fabulous.
“To see reluctant swimmers being enthusiastic and keen – I think it’s been fabulous.”
Cllr Keith Prince, leader of Redbridge Council, hailed the programme as “a great success” and congratulated everyone involved.
He added: “This training pool has gone a long way to reduce the numbers on the waiting list of those who wish to learn to swim.
“Eight schools have used the pool with 555 children learning to swim during the school programme.
“During the community hours at evenings and weekends 450 swimmers have used the pool.”
The waiting lists for lessons at Fullwell Cross Leisure Centre were closed last year with 1,577 children hoping for a place.
After leaving Wanstead, the pool will visit another three London boroughs by the end of the year.
Redbridge Council will debate proposals for a new temporary pool in Seven Kings at a meeting this evening.