en route to swimming

The truth about booking swimming lessons

I wrote a few weeks ago that N had now graduated from Water Babies now he’s four.  You’d think it would be simple to just transfer him over to new swimming classes and all would be lovely and fine.

However, if you’ve never tried to get your child (and I’m talking post-baby swimming lessons) into swimming lessons and haven’t had them on a waiting list since birth, then start thinking about it now.  It can be a total nightmare.

I’ve heard of people queuing at leisure centres for hours in the hope of being there face to face will get them on the list when they open, ahead of phone call sign ups – it can be like this even for people already in classes but just wanting to move up a class.  And others who’ve been told there’s just no chance as the waiting lists are as long as their arms!  Add to that working parents that means afterschool lessons aren’t an option, and you’ll be nobbling other parents in the hope of getting children signed up for classes at a reasonable age.

I really wanted to get him into the standard group swimming lessons at the same pool.  For starters, he was obviously used to the pool; it’s only a 5 minute(ish) drive away, they do Saturday lessons.  And most of his cousins have learnt or are learning there, and had done really well with the teacher.  They tend to have 2 teachers, running 2 classes in tandem so I was hoping that once existing children had rebooked their classes, that there would be some spaces in the several classes that are the level he was recommended to go into.

Then the panic set in as the booking date approached.  If he didn’t get a space, I knew I’d not have a chance of getting him into the right class at the town leisure centre, because they’re rumoured to be a nightmare to get into.  There is another small town near us with a pool and I’d have probably been ok getting a space there, but it was further away, a new pool, and I couldn’t for the life of me work out what level class he’d need to do.   Classes tend to start with ‘never having been in a pool before’ – which he’s not on his own, but has otherwise swum for nearly 4 years.  So he wouldn’t be wanting introduction to water classes.  But then the next class seemed to be reception age – with a list of things they needed to be able to do.  So he’d have been in theory too young, and for the checklist some of which N could do, some he’d refuse to do but which he should be able to do, and others he definitely couldn’t.


The teacher/manager of the swimming lessons I wanted him to join is really laid back though.  Long delays in replies to emails, no replies to voicemails, and then I collared her at the pool after one of our lessons to check when bookings was opening.  Then the date I’d been given was wrong for new starters.  Argghh.

Eventually booking day arrived and I was on the phone at 4 o’clock dead.  But they didn’t have the laptop so couldn’t check the spaces and could I ring back.  As I was at work, I was then paranoid that someone else would get in before me and there’d be no spaces.  Thankfully when I called back, they still had spaces for the Saturday early sessions.  And I was booked on.  Of course it wasn’t as simple as that because our old classes didn’t finish until half term, so although I was booking him on from January, he wasn’t starting until February.  Luckily they’re accommodating of that, so last week was N’s first class…but that’s another post.

I was relieved that we got a space, at a time that’s convenient.  Especially when I spoke to one of the mums at nursery who has twins who’re also 4…and they had to wait a year to get lessons.

Have you ever had nightmares trying to get children into swimming lessons?


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  1. Swimming lessons are an ongoing frustration for me at the moment. We’ve used the same leisure centre for 5 years (although B has moved to a village swimming school as it is significantly nearer). The management company running the leisure centre changed last year and I haven’t been happy with things (mainly the pool temperature) so I’ve been looking for an alternative for M’s lessons, and trying to get it nearer home. I’ve found one possibility, but haven’t progressed it very far as I need to coordinate things with changing another activity. However, I’ve heard it maybe possible to get him into the same school that B goes to earlier than I expected because he’s had lessons for so long. Finger’s crossed.

    1. Must be hard coordinating school, nursery, 2 kids, and then more than one activity. I (and N) fancy starting him on mini tennis, but the classes all either clash with swimming on Saturday mornings, or are Friday afternoons when he’s just too knackered. Hard one, and I’ve only got 1 child.

  2. Sounds like its quite difficult. We haven’t started swimming lessons yet but thanks for writing this. It helps to be warned that its complicated. I might just teach them myself.

  3. Gosh what a palava! We have worse with our local gymnastics classes. It’s become the talk of the town: parents queue from 4am to get their smalls into them. It’s like the NEXT sale!!! So stressful but luckily we’ve never had to put ourselves through that particular pain. #brilliantblogposts

  4. WOW! We have obviously been incredibly lucky so far then! This sounds like a nightmare! Thanks for linking up #bigfatlinky

    1. It obviously depends on area. I think it’s the big towns that really suffer, or swim schools with great reputations – ours is but also covers a lot of villages.

  5. Thanks for the warning. We haven’t started any sort of swimming lessons for our two yet (25 months and 6 months). We do try and take them to the pool every week though. We were hoping to start lessons for the eldest soon so will have to look into the options.

  6. I haven’t even tried this malarkey yet. Mainly because the way the local place has lessons means big and small can’t be in the same class at the same time due to their ages….which is plain silly.

    1. Seems strange. Surely once they’re 4, it’s based on whether they’ve swum before.

      Ours do 2 lessons at a time, but different levels. So the 4yo twins we know do the 2.5-4yr old new to water class, while their 6yo sister does the class that’s 1-2 ahead.

  7. I will be joining the queue from hell here at 10am on Monday, to find out if by some miracle after a year we have actually gone up to stage 2 – I’m fearing not. We automatically stay in the class/slot if he doesn’t go up as I pay by dd but if he moves up I understnad its a case of waiting and hoping a slot on a suitable day/time is available. What working Mum’s do I have no idea – last time I got there at 10am they were queueing out the door.

    1. Madness. Why are the people from stage 2 not going up? Just ridiculous that there aren’t more teachers and more classes. We’ve been quite lucky that it’s literally ring up and book and it’s a village pool so not that many people want to come out of town to it. The hard thing is that there’s tonnes of baby lessons – through Water Babies or various similar franchises/independents, but then not enough lessons for children to move on to. They do do private lessons at the pool though – only Saturday lunch/afternoons which isn’t a great time.

      I think N will be in his class a while though – it aims to get them swimming unaided 10 metres, but most of them still have 5 floats in their belt. I don’t think N’s kick is going to be strong enough (or his want) for a long time.

    2. That seems crazy, surely if you are already in the system you should have the first option to change lesson. That is how it is done with ours (at least I think it is as the teacher has always told us we’re ready to move up and we change once there is space).

      Hope it worked out for you.

      1. Yep, it is madness isn’t it?

        Ours, the order for booking is:
        1. Existing swimmers wanting same time, same session
        2. Existing swimmers wanting to change session
        3. Anyone else

        Works really well, although a nightmare if you can only swim on one day (us, Saturdays), or if you’re trying to get in in the first place. I think we were lucky. Twins we know of N’s age who’d not swum before had to go in the younger group and waited a year for a place.

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