A Wollongong City Council ban on non-competitive activities at school swimming carnivals means many kids “don’t even get wet” at the events, one councillor says.
Greens councillor Mithra Cox will next week attempt to convince her colleagues to drop some council restrictions on carnivals, including one which dictates that there is “no non-competitive swimming”.
“For many children, the highlight of the carnival used to be the fun races at the end of the day - the tug of war, the boogie board races and the pool noodle challenge,” Cr Cox said. “But now fun races have been banned by Wollongong council, and students can only race in competitive races.”
“Teachers have told me that only a small proportion of the most competitive, sporty kids participate in swimming carnivals, a big decline from a decade ago.”
The other rule Cr Cox will target is one restricting primary school carnivals to half a day, except if they have a more than 800 pupils. Even Wollongong’s largest public primary school – Dapto Public School – would not meet this criteria, as it had 707 pupils at last count.
“This basically means the council is forcing fewer kids from each school to attend – because there’s no way you could fit a carnival for a school of 700 kids into three hours.
“It’s designed to stop all kids from participating,” Cr Cox said.
“The less kids from each school that go, the less they are encouraged to swim and feel confident swimming.”
“It is not council’s job to be the fun police. We should be encouraging all our young people to get involved in their swimming carnivals and have a good time.”
Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said he thought the council policy struck a balance between allowing schools and the rest of the community to share public pools.
“The rules are there so you don’t have a small school tying up a pool for the entire day,” Cr Bradbery said. “It’s meant to make sure the rest of the community can have access to the pool.”
Cr Bradbery said he believed the council would be willing to waive the restriction for larger schools wanting to use the pool for a whole day on a case by case basis.
He also said he did not think activities like tug of war or other novelty races would be disallowed under the council’s “no non-competitive swimming” rule.
“As far as I’m concerned these sort of things are part of a sports carnival, structured activities like this wouldn’t be banned as long as they’re supervised,” he said.
“How the school organises their carnivals is up to them –but children can go to a pool at any time for non-competitive swimming.”
Councillors will debate the policy on schools’ use of council pools next Tuesday, January 30.