This week, students and staff at Ashford School are celebrating after the school was shortlisted for an Independent School of the Year Award for its community-centred Swim Programme.
The annual awards programme, run by Independent School Parent Magazine, aims to celebrate the excellence of student experience in independent schools across the country. Each year, organisers receive nominations from hundreds of independent schools in each of the 24 award categories. From these entries, standout schools are shortlisted for each award, with an independent panel of expert judges having the difficult task of deciding the final winners.
In being shortlisted for the Community Outreach award, Ashford School’s Swim Programme (ASSP) has been recognised nationally for the decisive and positive contribution it has made to the local community over the past year. Launched in 2015 and led by Denise Walsh, ASSP is a programme that gives young people and adults, both at the school and across the local community, the opportunity to access top-class swimming facilities and expertise.
Amid the closure of sports centres throughout the pandemic, ASSP staff have worked tirelessly to ensure that community provision has been able to continue. By extending opening hours and being creative with changing facilities and timetabling, the programme has continued to thrive. Alongside offering curriculum swimming to students at the school, over 750 pupils from the local community have benefited from ASSP, including vulnerable children and those with special needs.
ASSP has also been lending its support to local swimming clubs, offering pool space and working with coaches to ensure that local talent is being nurtured. Likewise, to ensure the programme is underpinned by a strong team of coaches, the school has launched a new Swim Coach Apprenticeship and offers regular professional development courses for staff.
A teacher at St Teresa’s Catholic Primary School, whose pupils benefit from ASSP, said:
“I have been so impressed with the progress of all the children. We brought children who had never been in a pool before and during their first ever lesson they were terrified. Now they are jumping under the water, swimming with one flotation and making fantastic progress.”
Likewise, a teacher at Aldington Primary School added:
“The programme is very effective and enables us to successfully meet the Government requirements aiming for 100% of children to swim and have water safety skills by the end of Year 6. Working with the school and having transport provided is a huge benefit to us as a school. The quality of the swimming coaches is excellent, and the recent top up sessions have also made a significant difference.”
The Independent Schools of the Year judging panel is set to meet in the autumn to make a decision on the winners of this year’s award. The result will be announced as part of a special awards ceremony in October.
Michael Hall, Headmaster of Ashford School, said:
“Congratulations to Denise and the entire team involved in ASSP who have worked so tirelessly over the past year to ensure our students and local community continue to access all the swim programme has to offer. It is fantastic to see our school receive this kind of national recognition and, in particular, to be shortlisted for an award that values community engagement. We look forward to building on and developing our swim programme in the months and years so that even more young people and adults can benefit.”