THE company that runs Basingstoke Aquadrome breached safety guidelines in relation to its swimming lessons for children, the Gazette can reveal.

At least 12 children were in the pool with one teacher during a lesson on June 17 – breaching Swimming Teacher Association (STA) guidance for ratios by double. 

The incident happened when two classes had to merge because of a shortage of teachers. 

As previously reported, Basingstoke mum Holly Lucas complained to Serco Leisure, which runs the Aquadrome in partnership with Basingstoke and Deane Community Leisure Trust, asking to cancel her membership. 

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She criticised the company for its “unorganised” swimming lessons and claimed her five-year-old son was one of at least 12 children in a class with one teacher in the pool. 

Guy Baber, contract manager for Basingstoke and Deane Community Leisure Trust, initially responded to say the teacher-to-learner ratios for its swimming lessons “strictly adhere to guidelines provided by the Swimming Teacher Association (STA).”

However, the company later backtracked to say it actually follows "a range of guidance" after it was found to have breached the STA guidance.

STA guidelines state there should be a maximum swimming teacher-to-learner ratio of one to six, when the teacher is in the pool. 

Serco Leisure admitted there were 12 children in the pool during the lesson on June 17, but said this was "safe and correct" because the teacher was not in the pool with the children. 

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However, when the Gazette contacted the Aquadrome directly, a member of staff told us that for level one swimming lessons – which was the class being held on June 17 - the teacher is in the pool with the children. 

This means the ratio should have been a maximum of six children with one adult, along with 'appropriate safety cover on the poolside'.

Mum-of-two Holly, who was watching the lesson, is adamant that the teacher was in the pool with the children.

When Serco Leisure was questioned on this, it backtracked to say it "operates within a range of industry guidance, not just the STA's".

Mr Baber added: "We take the wellbeing of our customers extremely seriously and do not take risks when it comes to safety. Our swimming lesson programme operates according to industry guidelines. 

“For the lesson in question, classes of similar abilities were merged at the last minute due to teacher absence, but the session was still operated within the industry guidance of one teacher to 12 learners. 

“The 12 learners in attendance for this session were being taught in shallow water, using appropriate buoyancy aids and overseen by a qualified swimming teacher. The lesson was also supervised by a qualified lifeguard.

“Each week, we teach 1,000s of kids and adults to swim across Basingstoke. Every element of this lesson, and all the others we teach, was delivered in a safe way.”

STA guidelines state that swimming teachers in the water have an extremely limited view of the water and the learners and therefore ratios may need to be reduced further when teaching nervous learners or those with a disability.

Holly, from Winklebury, whose children are four and five, said that following her complaint the Aquadrome offered to change her children’s teacher or provide them with one-to-one lessons, but she declined the offer.

She said: “I did not want to put my children at risk with any of the teachers in the Aquadrome. I have emails chasing payment, but I’m refusing to pay for the service I received or lack of.”

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, which contracts Serco Leisure to run the Aquadrome, is yet to respond to a request for comment.