FIFE Council are "ignoring" national guidance on swimming provision and making it harder for kids to learn a life-saving skill by getting rid of school pools.

That's the view of Dunfermline Amateur Swimming club (DASC) who believe that, although a final decision is yet to be made, the community-use facility at Inverkeithing High will "inevitably" close. 

And they say lack of provision in West Fife will also harm the prospects of elite youngsters who want to swim for their country.

Responding to the public consultation on the council's plans to build a replacement high school in Rosyth, the club said the shortage of pools will mean already long waiting lists for lessons will only increase.

Dunfermline Press: Dunfermline Amateur Swimming Club said school pool closures will adversely affect elite swimmers too.Dunfermline Amateur Swimming Club said school pool closures will adversely affect elite swimmers too. (Image: Newsquest)

A spokesperson for DASC said: "On completion, the proposal will inevitably see the fifth high school pool closed in the Dunfermline area since 2003 (Queen Anne, St Columba's, Dunfermline, Woodmill and Inverkeithing).

"This school consultation paper is threadbare on what will happen to the existing swimming pool and on how exactly Fife Council intends to fulfil their obligation to provide physical education in the form of swimming and community use swimming lessons in the area.

"As with all of the recent West Fife school replacements, Fife Council's education service is ignoring Sportscotland guidance on standard sports facility provision and continues to hold the position of it is ‘not Fife Council's policy to build or replace school pools’.

READ MORE: Dunfermline councillor wants swimming back on school curriculum

"This ‘policy’ however runs contrary to the Scottish Government’s ambitions for sport and physical activity and is a completely different approach adopted by other regions where high schools are being developed as part of the government's £1 billion Learning Estate Investment Programme."

At a public consultation meeting about the new school, head of education Shelagh McLean said: "There would be room on the site, if the decision was taken by Fife Council to build a swimming pool."

However, she also said the education service "don’t plan to build a swimming pool for sound educational reasons", as this would mean they can "provide other options" for young people.

Current group users of the pool at Inverkeithing include INCAS Swim Club, Mutch More Active, Disability Sports Fife, Little Starfish, Merbabies, Swimfit and Aquaerobics.

DASC were previously a long term user but "frequent closure due to lack of maintenance and the aged and unsuitable open plan changing facilities forced us to seek water space elsewhere".

And the spokesperson added: "Whilst the club is no longer a direct user, we have many members who are located in the school catchment and as a voluntary organisation we are directly affected by community pool availability and the impact from the limited school swimming tuition existing in the West Fife catchment."

The club said PE swimming lessons at school and Fife Sports and Leisure Trust lessons at Inverkeithing "are not mentioned once in the paper".

Dunfermline Press: Plans have been submitted for a new high school to be built in Rosyth, but they don't include a swimming pool.Plans have been submitted for a new high school to be built in Rosyth, but they don't include a swimming pool. (Image: Fife Council)

It added that, with the pools not replaced at the new Dunfermline and Queen Anne high schools, and no pool planned for the shared campus being built for St Columba's and Woodmill, "the sports offering will again disproportionally facilitate already well funded and locally accommodated sports such as football, rugby and tennis".

The club said the community shortfall on swimming availability "will once again be ignored".

And it's not just beginners who are set to lose out: "The current lack of pool access has put at risk the future potential for competitive club swimmers who contribute to Dunfermline, Fife and Scotland’s global success with Fife clubs starting to fall behind the national curve in performance swimming."

DASC said that, unlike schools in England, swimming was "not a compulsory part of the curriculum in Scotland" and provision was patchy across the country with "children living in the most socially deprived areas having the highest number of non-swimmers".

The club added that drowning was the third most common cause of accidental death in children and a Scottish Swimming study showed that 40 per cent of kids starting high school each year are unable to swim.

The spokesperson said that if the Inverkeithing pool shuts it is "highly unlikely" that a school can or will spend time and money transporting kids on a "seven-to-eight mile round trip" during school hours to the Carnegie Leisure Centre in Dunfermline, the nearest facility.

They added: "Experience tells us that statements made in the past from Fife Council about retention of community use assets and strategies to transfer existing swim programmes to the trust have simply not materialised.

"This leads to pressures on other facilities and external swim schools."

DASC said they understood swimming pools are "inherently expensive" to build and operate but said there was "no joined up policy" between the council and trust regarding sports and recreation facilities.

The spokesperson added: "Enabling an on-site facility for a school of circa 1,800 pupils along with affordable access to external clubs and local private swim schools, including providing revenue generating facilities for community access, couldn’t be more important to achieve the vision outlined in Building Fife’s Future: School Estate Strategy."

Service manager Louise Playford, from the council's property services, said any decisions to provide swimming pools in schools are taken on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the facilities available across Fife.

She added: "There are costs and risks associated with operating swimming pools in schools and we have to carefully consider what space will give the best educational benefits for our young people.

"Our Active Schools team work closely in partnership with Fife Sports and Leisure Trust to bring swimming to as many school pupils as possible.

"We've been involved in a number of projects over the past five years including free swimming for P1 pupils to get more children learning this important life skill."