West Lothian Leisure recognised at national awards for getting more youngsters into the pool

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.

West Lothian leisure trust 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.

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.

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“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.

Representatives from Xcite pick up the Learn to Swim Provider of the Year award at Scottish Swimming's annual awards night.

“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.”

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Xcite operates the Learn to Swim programme across the county including in Linlithgow and at the Winchburgh Wellness Hub.

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

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Xcite West Lothian representatives with the award.

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.

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“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.

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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.

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“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.”