We Cannot Save the School Pool, What Next?

Copmanthorpe Sink or Swim’s project to save Copmanthorpe Primary School swimming pool is ending. We have tried our best, but the School Governing Body have decided that they can no longer support the Project.

Copmanthorpe Community Pool (the registered Charity set up to save the pool) now has two choices:

  1. 1 – We can continue but with the aim of building a new pool, or
  2. 2 – We can shut down the Charity.

A new pool would be a community pool that the school may be able to use for swimming sessions, but it would be run by the community for the whole community. This would need a revised business plan, and the Charity documents would have to be revised. A location would need to be found. Most importantly, this would need a new group of Trustees, and a fundraising committee.

What would you like us to do? Vote for one of the options above and tell us what you think. Further information is provided below and in this previous post.

Background

There has been a swimming pool at the village primary school for over 50 years. It was built using donations from nearly every household in the village. Many children have learnt to swim in the pool, and before it closed, pupils from Lower School were able to use the pool for a course of three sessions to build water confidence each year, during the school day. In the late 1990’s, children in years 1 to 6, were able to swim during the school day for at least half a term each year.

In 2016, the pool building flooded due to a burst pipe and a feasibility survey indicated that, in addition to flood damage, the pool itself and plant machinery were in a poor state and could not be brought back into service without significant capital investment. There were no school funds to invest in the repair and no financial support available from the local authority; the school had no other option to close the pool for the foreseeable future.

Since 2017, but not during the pandemic, the school has taken all the Year 4 children for half a term to York Sport Village, in Heslington, plus all children who cannot swim 25m with a proficient stroke in Year 5 and Year 6 which is the National Curriculum requirement. External lessons would continue if the school pool were to reopen, as it is not 25m long, but fewer lessons at York Sport Village would be required if pupils were able to develop water confidence and swimming skills in the school pool.

On 20th October 2016, the school held a meeting to see if there was support for bringing the swimming pool back into use. This meeting was well attended, and a group of people volunteered to take the project on. After a few months, a new group was formed. This reformed group was named Copmanthorpe Sink or Swim, a business plan was written, and a charity set up (Copmanthorpe Community Pool).

The Project

The aim was to reopen the pool as a community facility, equipped for all ages, with proper changing facilities and full disabled access.

An indepenent community survey, funded by the Parish Council, demonstated strong local support for the project. Whilst participation in the survey was impacted by COVID restrictions, it nevertheless received 294 out of the 429 responses required to be statistically representative according to the methods used. Of these responses, 79% of people rated it extremely important or very important that the pool be saved. A swimming pool in the village would clearly benefit the children of the village, who would have easy access to lessons, but a community pool would also benefit anyone in the local area, with open swim sessions, activities such as ‘aquafit’ and private hire.

The charity’s Trustees and volunteers worked with City of York Council and the School Governing Body, to meet the various practical and legal requirements for the handover of the pool.

The Trustees visited local community pools, and consulted with swimming teachers who previously used the pool, and designed the improvements needed for the pool. We then applied for, and received, a grant from the Parish Council to pay for a quote from a council-approved contractor.

Funding

Copmanthorpe Sink or Swim set up a Sink or Win lottery, which was well supported, and we pursued local fundraising, such as a sponsored swim, and stalls at the Carnival and May Day Fair.

We also investigated applying for large grants and to apply, we needed charity status. To gain charity status we needed a business plan. So, we wrote a comprehensive business plan. We investigated the various types of charity and filled in the forms to apply for charity status. After jumping through a few more hoops, we finally achieved charity status on 27th June, 2019.

Funding applications were prepared. The main issue with applying was that we were unable to transfer the lease of the pool building and land from the School to the Charity until we had raised sufficient funding, but major funders would not provide funding before the lease was transferred.

We had prepared and submitted some applications, but the School Governing Body, at their 2020 June meeting, was concerned that progress was too slow and therefore imposed a deadline for raising the funds.

Further applications were submitted, and we received an expression of interest from one large funder, and over £1,000 of funding pledges within a month. At this point, COVID-19 halted progress, as the major funding sources were closed to non-COVID-19 applications.

As we were unable to apply, we did not meet the school’s fundraising target, so the School Governing Body withdrew their support for the project. For the last year, we have appealed against this decision.

The School Governing Body expressed concerns about the timescale and the high cost of the project, which was provided by a council-approved contractor, and has increased significantly partly due to COVID-19 restrictions, as well as restrictions on access.

We offered to seek lower quotes for the work, and to work with the School Governing Body to resolve any issues. Although the major funders are still closed to applications from non-COVID-19 projects, we identified other sources that we could apply to, such as community asset funding, but this was to no avail.

The Trustees suggested a basic refurbishment to get the pool up and running as it was before it needed repairs (when it was breaking even and making a small profit). We also suggested that we could use local contractors, which would significantly reduce the costs. But the School Governing Body decided that our estimate for this was too low.

The Future?

The School Governing Body are firm that there is no going back – the current pool will not be refurbished.

There is now the option to build a new pool in the village. This would be a community pool that the school may be able to use for swimming sessions, but it would be run by the community for the whole community. This would need a revised business plan, and the Charity documents would have to be revised. A location would need to be found. Most importantly, this would need a new group of Trustees, and a fundraising committee.

There is a small group of people who are interested in investigating the possibilities. We need more people – particularly a treasurer. If you are interested or can help in any way, please contact us.

Further details on Project progress are available in our monthly meeting minutes.