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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:-   31 July 2006

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Swimming lessons a splash hit!

NEARLY a thousand Liverpool schoolchildren are in the swim thanks to a splashing city council project.
At the beginning of the month, Olympic swimming bronze medallist Stephen Parry teamed up with the council to launch a pioneering drive to teach schoolchildren to swim in just 2 weeks. And it's really paid off.  Through the project, the biggest of its kind in the UK, 780 Liverpool kids who either couldn't swim or weren't very proficient can now swim 25 metres. And the rest have made progress.

The council has been inundated with letters from delighted children, with comments including:- "I have more confidence and feel a lot safer in the water now"; "Thank you for organising swimming lessons. I really liked swimming in the deep end" and "I can now swim there and back without stopping"!

Liverpool City Council Leader Warren Bradley said:- "The success of this project is a massive boost to our aim to get thousands more young people in Liverpool swimming and improve their health and fitness.  Teaching so many children to swim in just a couple of weeks was always going to be a tall order. We were always hopeful we could do it and to have achieved so much in such a short space of time is just fantastic."

Councillor Bradley acknowledged that a lot of work remains to be done, as around half of Liverpool schoolchildren still can't swim, against a national average of 17%. But work is being done to put that right.  He added:- "We've just introduced free leisure passes so Liverpool children can get access to any of our Lifestyles centres, not just to go swimming but to do a huge range of sports. So any child who wants to continue developing their swimming skills through the summer can go to the pool every day if they want."

The 'Top Up' swimming lessons programme, initiated by Liverpool's School Sports Partnership, is funded by Liverpool's Lifestyles leisure centres and the government. It is a partnership between the city council and Stephen Parry's company Total Swimming, which provided the tuition. 

It took place at 5 pools across the city, with the ultimate aim of improving the number of Liverpool youngsters who can swim before they start secondary school.  Schools across the city were invited to sign up to the scheme, putting forward pupils in Year 6 (final year of primary school) who could not swim 25 metres. Over the course of the fortnight, youngsters received a 30-minute session each day with 1 coach for every 8 pupils.

School Effectiveness officer, Stephen Tiffany, said:- "This intensive program has demonstrated a really effective way to teach swimming, and it will revolutionise how we deliver swimming in our primary schools.  The work of our four School Sports Partnership groups on this city wide project has been top-class, and we hope to repeat the programme in 2007."

Stephen Parry, who took bronze at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said:- "We've been delighted with the massive progress made by every child. It's been fantastic to see the kids having fun, getting fit and learning a vitally important life skill. And remember these are children that didn't even like the water and haven't had the opportunity to swim before.

Liverpool has really been put on the national swimming map through this ambitious project. So many people have worked together through our pro-active Partnership Development Managers to deliver the most successful and largest Learn to Swim program in the country. Liverpool council really is showing a strong commitment to sport through this program and many others, ensuring that the Lifestyles program will be a resounding success.

And the huge impact the swimming project has already made means we can hopefully look to replicate it all over the country. That means Liverpool could soon be leading the way where once we were lagging behind."

HAS YOUR BUS DRIVER GOT THE ‘X FACTOR’?

DEREK Bowes, commercial manager of Arriva North West and Wales, wants your nominations for local bus drivers.  If you believe your bus driver has that little bit extra when it comes to offering great service then bus company Arriva North West and Wales is looking for your vote.  August sees Arriva launch a new competition for its drivers in Southport – Bus Driver X Factor – which aims to find the best driver as nominated and voted for by Arriva customers.

Derek Bowes commercial manager of Arriva North West and Wales said:- “Our drivers are the frontline when it comes to meeting the public and we know that many of them are always prepared to go the extra mile when it comes to customer service.  We want customers to tell us which drivers they feel should be included in the Arriva Bus Driver X Factor competition. Whether it’s because their driver is always smiling and friendly or because he or she is always prepared to help people getting on and off the bus, let us know which driver you think has the X Factor.”

Every suggestion counts, as the drivers from Southport who receive the most nominations will automatically be entered into the North West and Wales final. This will see the drivers go head to head as the competition is put to the public vote to decide the winner.  The winner in the North West and Wales will be crowned as the Bus Driver X Factor winner and will win a trophy and cash prize.

If you would like to vote for an Arriva bus driver call the Bus Driver X Factor hotline on 0845 270 1660 or email your nomination to xfactor@arriva.co.uk by August 31.

YOUNG TALENT GETS RECORDING DEAL

YOUNG musical talent is getting the chance to record in a top studio as part of the Streetwaves competition.

One act from each of the seven neighbourhoods of Liverpool is set to perform at the Mathew Street Music Festival on August Bank holiday in front of thousands. Part of their prize package also includes a day at Elevator Studios with expert producers, where the likes of The Zutons, The Coral, The Subways, The Automatic, The Lightning Seeds and The Kooks have worked. There will be a separate gig at the Picket with many of the auditioning bands as an alternative Mathew Street festival.

Last year's winners have gone on to perform again after the prize spot at the festival and have got further work using their musical talent. 1 band, Fade 2, has appeared on national television and has signed a management deal after taking part. Application forms have already been gathered and acts chosen to audition and now there are only 2 more audition sessions to go, details below, photographers welcome.

Liverpool City Council leader, Cllr Warren Bradley, said:- "So far the heats have had an electric atmosphere, with friends and family willing each act on. The gig feel has proved very popular so it's worth getting down to the last 3 auditions. We're encouraging everyone to come along and support the young people, it also gives the other bands a chance to check out their competition!"

Winners will also get a designer from p-ornithology T-shirt company to work on band merchandise, with a certain number of shirts to give away to their most loyal fans. This year The Picket Music Project is managing Streetwaves. The Picket has recently opened in its new premises in Liverpool's Independent District. Partners include the Liverpool Culture Company, MZONE and Youth Music, who will all give every auditioning band advice and feedback to improve their performances.

Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council is holding a partner competition with one more audition to go. For more information about Streetwaves visit www.elevatorstudios.com

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