This is the complaint I’ve put in to the city council:
This morning, I took my three year old daughter to the Peter Lloyd Leisure Centre, for the Preschool Swimming class there. It was her first class, and I enrolled her because she has never been confident in the water, and I wanted her to get the opportunity to become so.
I signed up for the class, and paid ?18 up front for six sessions, six days earlier, and arrived well ahead of 10.30am, as requested.
I was a little surprised by the size of the group – given that the regulations for the pools prohibit me from taking both my children swimming at once (they are both under four), I was not expecting a staff ratio of one to ten children, but it was so.
My daughter struggled throughout the session – most of the other children were much more experienced in the activities, and much more confident. My daughter seemed to be left to cope by herself quite a lot, and I was concerned that if she felt left behind, she wouldn’t want to come again. However, that is just background – the bit that horrified me was this:
At the end of the session, the children had “play time” – the small slide was brought out, and the previously structured programme gave way to freer play. The single member of staff with the group took up a position at the slide, but as a consequence he was unable to see the entire area, and at most times there were children out of his line of sight. My daughter was four or five yards to his left, and slightly behind him, when she lost her footing, couldn’t find it again, and went under the water three or four times.
Fortunately, she recovered, and was able to leave the pool by herself. Not only hadn’t he noticed her difficulties in the water, he didn’t seem to notice her leave the pool in a state of great distress, making a beeline for me.
Essentially, he lost a child from his class, and didn’t notice. In a pool situation, I find that horrifying.
When we first arrived at the pool, there appeared to be a similar, earlier session in progress, featuring only one child. We were told to attend the 10.30am session, without any suggestion that it may be oversubscribed, or that there was more than one option.
It seems to me that pitifully weak administration created a class that was too large to be safe, and either weakness, ineptitude, or organisational culture prevented the single instructor in the pool from taking steps tomake the situation safe – either by finding another adult to assist, or by refusing to run the class at all.
My daughter’s confidence in the water is now utterly shattered, and the entire exercise has proved counter-productive to my original aim.
Ideally, what would you like us to do?
Firstly, I would like the incident to be raised with the staff concerned. I did speak to the instructor at the end, and he apologised to me, but I would like some reassurance that this incident has been taken seriously, and steps have been taken to prevent its repetition.
Secondly, I would like to be reimbursed the ?18 I spent on six sessions, since it seems very unlikely that I shall be able to persuade my daughter to return to the venue, never mind the class.
So, the phrase “unmitigated disaster” springs to mind. Plus, you know, she could have drowned. To my shame, I froze. I should have shouted, but I froze. We’re probably only talking about seconds, in reality, but they were heart-stopping seconds. When she found her way out of the water, to me, she gave this incredibly deep throaty belch – which would suggest she was genuinely swallowing water and fighting for breath out there. I hurriedly passed Henry to a random person (the grandparents of another child), to deal with her, and I’m very grateful for their willingness to do that. But really. Ten three year olds to one adult? What were they thinking?
I’m kind of kicking myself for ever letting her go in the water – it was clearly too many children to be safe. But I didn’t want to be That Mother, you know? Well, I’m that mother now, because I’ve submitted a complaint.
The guy really wasn’t that good, anyway. The other children knew what they were doing, so with the scantest of instruction, they just went off and did it. Daisy hadn’t done the activities before, and mostly had no idea what she was being asked to do. Plus, for a person working with three year olds, he wasn’t remotely inspiring. Apparently, he was standing in for someone else, and she’s much better, but it’s all academic, because Daisy has decided that she wants to go back to “our pool” (Garston), because she perceives it as safe. I’m torn between not wanting her to develop a phobia of the pool, and letting her, because we’re never likely to go back. When I was a child, I used to get hysterical over going to Woolworths in Rochdale (and to a lesser extent, Woolworths anywhere else), because we were once evacuated from the shop because of a small fire. I didn’t see smoke or flames, I just heard the bells, and was whisked out of the door. Compared with that, she’s kind of entitled to develop an irrational fear. Children don’t necessarily have a coherent sense of WHY it was terrifying – just that it was.