Children at Willow Dene benefit from access to a new on-site warm water pool and dedicated swimming team. The school is committed to high-quality swimming provision, recognising the opportunities it offers our children to develop confidence, skills and fitness as well as enjoy and achieve. We have always allocated significant resources and time to ensure all of the children have a weekly swim and in the past have accessed a range of specialist and public pools in the community to achieve this. Now we have our own pool, the vast majority of children swim in our highly specialist pool and benefit from equally specialist and experienced teaching. Achieving this aim has been overwhelmingly positive, with so many unanticipated gains, such as children who have found accessing public pools difficult entering the water confidently; children responding to the calm environment moderating their own arousal levels; children’s communication skills benefitting from the increased structure, predictability and calm; and children making better progress over a very short space of time because the provision is of such a high standard.

Some of the advantages of having our own pool and highly skilled team include:

  • Innovative thematic teaching, with schemes of work linked to stories, topics and children’s interests while focused on building confidence, water safety and skill development
  • High quality, exciting and personalised resources to provide the right level of support in the water and engagement and interest in the learning
  • All of the staff supporting children’s learning in the pool know them really well and understand their needs, strengths and identified next steps
  • A calm environment, which can be transformed through the use of sensory lighting and state-of-the-art audio equipment
  • Full accessibility, with two hoists, a PoolPod and multiple ways to enter the water. Both these, and activities in the water, are personalised and linked to children’s MOVE targets where appropriate
  • Less time spent travelling and transitioning, leading to lower anxiety levels for many children and greater time for focused learning
  • Very high standards of safety, cleanliness and changing facilities
  • An in-school team completely committed to getting it right for our children who have the freedom and control to ensure that our pool provides the right experience for each individual

Outside visitors, including swimming instructors and pool managers working at a national level, have been universally impressed by the outstanding quality of our pool environment and the learning that is happening within it. We know we have created something really unique and special to provide our children with the very best opportunities to learn, be healthy, stay safer, achieve and enjoy.