The governors at Dartmouth Academy and I fully support for the plans for the proposed new indoor pool in Dartmouth. The following summarises some of the key planks in our argument for a pool and explain why we fundamentally disagree with the decision by South Hams District Council to press pause on their investment; effectively killing off the indoor pool project so many people have worked so hard to bring to fruition.
Mary Shaw, the Chair of Governors at Dartmouth Academy and I, have worked hard to develop opportunities for all young people in the community; a community that lacks the sporting facilities it needs.
In November 2014, Public Health England published a report, “The link between pupil health and wellbeing and attainment”, which identified four key points. The fourth point was, “A positive association exists between academic attainment and physical activity levels of pupils”. We see all-year access to Dartmouth’s indoor pool as a key piece of the jigsaw in improving our pupils’ health and attainment.
Across the school the percentage of our pupils who are entitled to Free School Meals is 37% (the National figure is 28.6%) and in three of our year groups that figure exceeds 65%. Separately, a high percentage of students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities attend the Academy; in 2013 the percentage of our students with SEN statements or School Action +, was 13% (the National figure was 7.4%).
The characteristics of economic disadvantage, age, and disability impact on our students’ practical access to facilities and are protected characteristics under Public Sector Equality Duties. Further, Devon’s Strategy for Equality, “Fair for All 2015-19” specifically mentions, “older and younger people and low income households may be more dependent upon others on public transport to get around because they cannot drive or do not have access to a car”.
To swim indoors, our students must travel to Brixham, to Totnes or to Kingsbridge; all at significant additional cost. This disproportionately affects low income families and young people under 17 for whom public transport is expensive and private transport does not exist. From Dartmouth Academy to Totnes Pool involves a journey of 49 minutes (Traveline) using buses that run hourly and costs. To travel to Brixham pool by public transport takes a minimum of 70 minutes, involving a total of 40 minutes walking, a ferry crossing and one (or two) buses. To travel to swim at Kingsbridge takes an hour using the No93 bus (proposed cut for summer Sundays) or 1 hour 20 minutes using the X64 and the 164. All these routes cost money.
As a coastal community, we believe it is vital that our young people learn to swim and that they are provided with this opportunity during school time where trained swimming teachers are able to develop their skills quickly and effectively, in a safe environment. While the Academy benefits from the adjacent outdoor pool, this only provides curriculum access for one half term each year, one 6th of the time we need. During its inception and planning, the trustees of the indoor pool spoke to the Academy at length, to establish its intended usage of any proposed indoor pool. I can confirm that the Academy will use the pool on a year round basis.
I hope that any remaining obstacles are quickly removed so that South Hams and Devon can provide early evidence of “Fair for All 2015-19” and our community, including the 500+ students who attend Dartmouth Academy, can benefit from a facility that is many years overdue.
If you or your children children want to write and complain at the decision of South Hams District Council to withhold funding from the indoor pool, you can hand your letters into Reception and they will be passed on to the indoor pool fundraising group. Letters need to be handed in by 12th June if they are to reach Follaton House before the next