Birmingham – School Swimming

The following is taken directly from The City of Birmingham Baths Department 1851 – 1951. The work was written and compiled by J. Moth M.N.A.B.S Birmingham 1951 and is presented here.

Swimming, as part of the school curriculum, is nowadays such an accepted fact, that it is interesting to recall how arrangements for the attendance of school children at the Baths were first introduced.

Sparkhill Baths Learners and Large SwimIt will not be surprising to learn that Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, to whom the City owes so much in so many different ways, made the original suggestion that school children should be encouraged to visit the swimming baths as part of their education, and that special facilities should be afforded to that end. In fact, it was at a Meeting of the Council held on 10th November, 1874, over which he was presiding as Mayor, that Mr. Chamberlain first raised the matter.

At the commencement of the summer season in April 1875, a scheme, agreed upon by the Baths Committee and the Birmingham School Board was introduced, whereby books of one penny and halfpenny tickets could be purchased by school authorities for use in the First and Second Class Swimming Baths, by classes of elementary school children attending in charge of teachers during school hours. These tickets could also be purchased from the school authorities for use after school hours, up to 5.30 p.m. by scholars forming groups for swimming instruction in charge of an adult; whilst scholars who could already swim could purchase the tickets to visit the baths up to 5.30 p.m. of their own accord. A further inducement was the issue of Free Passes, valid for one year to scholars who could satisfy the teacher and a member of the Baths staff at tests which were held in October, that he could swim one length of the 30 yard bath at Kent Street.

Victoria Road Baths Large PoolThe arrangements made, which were later extended to the Grammar and High Schools, were an immediate success and but for minor changes affecting only the administration of the scheme, have remained in operation ever since.

For many years, the school authorities left the instruction of the children in the hands of teachers who were able to swim, but in due course, classes at which teachers were taught the elements of swimming instruction, were arranged. In recent years, the Baths Committee has engaged the services of qualified Swimming Instructors to assist the Education Authority in coping with the growth of the scheme which now entails the full use of every bath each school day in the summer from 9.0 a.m. to 4.30 p.m., whilst in the winter a high proportion of the classes continue attending.

The opportunity for children to visit the baths after school hours up to 5.30 p.m. is still available and, what is more, the charge remains at 1d. per head. In addition, the Education Authority arranges annual swimming sports and galas for schools in the various districts, which parents may attend and see for themselves what has been accomplished from this particular aspect of their children’s education.

Birmingham may well claim to serve its younger citizens well so far as swimming is concerned, and the City is well repaid by the excellent use made of the facilities provided.


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