CHILDREN were tough at Whaplode in the 1970s: they had to be to brave the primary school’s unheated outdoor swimming pool.
However, those children – and the 1,200 others like them through to today’s cosseted youngsters who splash about indoors in water heated to 85 degrees – have one thing in common. They are all extremely lucky to have attended a primary school with its own swimming pool and all the benefits that brings with it.
There are probably only one or two other primary schools in the district that have their own pool, although none as big as the one at Whaplode. Mike Bannister, a member of the swimming pool committee made up of teaching assistants, parents and Whaplode residents who are all passionate about maintaining the facility, says it was down to the “superb fundraising effort” by pupils, parents, teachers and members of the village that the pool was built in the first place.
In the early days, the pool was open to the community during the holidays, but that became too expensive and complicated to maintain and now it is used exclusively by the 184-pupil school. All the children are able to take lessons every week, something that is much more difficult to do when coach transport to Spalding is required, and Mike says 99 per cent of them leave the school able to swim and with their 25-metre swimming badge.
Initially, the county council paid for the pool’s upkeep, but ’70s cut-backs meant this was soon something the school was responsible for, and a swimming pool committee was formed.
One of its first tasks was to raise funds to improve swimming lessons by commissioning a covered building for the pool, the one that is still there today, and the pool itself was re-built in 1990.
There have been other improvements over the years, such as the addition of changing rooms, the provision of a solar cover, a new filter, pump and gas boiler. However, Mike says after 40 years there is work that needs doing now, such as improving the changing rooms and generally refurbishing the building.
To that end the swimming pool committee has organised a special summer fair this Sunday (12.30-5pm), with Spalding Flower Queen Daisy Ivatt opening the event, which will include arena performances from the samba drum players and the school choir, as well as a gymnastic display from Holbeach & Fenland Gym Club.
Whatever money is raised will go towards the upkeep and hopefully improvement of the pool so future generations of Whaplode pupils can learn to swim at school.