Spotlight On: Bromley High School’s community swimming partnership

Posted on: 02 Aug 2023
Posted by: Christina Bird

Christina Bird, assistant headteacher (director of Sixth Form) at Bromley High School, explains how the school’s community swimming partnership has helped pupils from both sectors gain confidence in, and out of, the water.

Community volunteering offers young people opportunities for leadership, developing new relationships and is associated with higher levels of wellbeing. As part of our Sixth Form elective programme, students can volunteer for a period of time in one of several community partnerships. One of these is the partnership between Bromley High and Marjorie McClure schools, established in 2017. Bromley High School is a GDST school in southeast London and each term, around 12 students take part in swimming sessions with the children from Marjorie McClure. Marjorie McClure is a foundation special school for students aged four to 19 with complex medical needs and physical disabilities, all with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) in place. Our mutually beneficial partnership has resulted in positive outcomes for both schools.

The partnership revolves around a swimming programme organised jointly by the two schools. Bromley High Sixth Formers visit Marjorie McClure and support younger swimmers in their hydrotherapy pool. These children may need support from at least two helpers; for example, children with cerebral palsy may need to be held by a qualified teacher, but the Bromley students then play an important role in communicating with the younger children. Secondary aged children from Marjorie McClure have the opportunity to visit the pool at Bromley which gives them access to deeper and colder water, essential for developing water safety skills and also giving them the opportunity to swim longer distances.

The Marjorie McClure children gain hugely from this experience. Having access to deeper water builds their self-esteem and they can achieve Swim England badges by swimming widths with the support of the Bromley students. Charlie Rollingson, swimming teacher at Marjorie McClure, described how one of her students – who loves to swim underwater and could often be found exploring the bottom of the pool – was so excited to have the opportunity to swim in a deeper pool. The benefits go beyond the pool, too; her teachers have reported that she is more engaged in the classroom following her Bromley High swimming sessions. Michael, a non-swimmer a few years ago and still lacking confidence in the water, was able to jump into the deep end for the first time with two Bromley High students holding his hands and jumping with him. The children really appreciate the opportunity to be with other teenagers as they report often feeling left out in social situations when other children avoid playing with them; these interactions are invaluable for their development.

“I cannot get out of my head that their teacher said that these kids largely get ignored out in public because people don't know what to say, so say nothing at all. I think I have definitely been guilty of that in the past, but now, honestly, I feel so differently. It has also made me appreciate the wonderful job their staff do.” - BHS teacher

This partnership has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for the Bromley High students. They have loved working with the Marjorie McClure children and have also gained confidence and leadership skills. Some of the Sixth Formers have gone on to gain swimming instructor qualifications and found part-time work with AquaKids, a local swimming club also based at Bromley High. One of the students went on to learn sign language, inspired by her time supporting a hearing impaired child.

“I learned just how bubbly and optimistic all the children were, even though they have disabilities this does not stop them from trying their best and hardest with the swimming activities.” - BHS Year 12 student

“I loved seeing the smiles on the children’s faces after each session and how their confidence grew with swimming each week.” - BHS Year 13 student

Our partnership with Marjorie McClure continues to develop; we now have an additional group visiting the school each week to assist in the classroom. These students support the children with one-to-one support depending on the needs of each individual. Getting to know the children on a personal level has made them think about relationship building and has also pushed our students beyond their everyday academic challenges and familiarities.

Our school values of compassion, curiosity and courage are very much aligned with our partnership with Marjorie McClure School and I am very much looking forward to the summer term’s initiative that will see a group of BHS students helping with sports day preparations.

About Christina Bird

Christina Bird is assistant headteacher (director of Sixth Form) at Bromley High School GDST.