Dolphin Swimming Club

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Dolphin Swimming Club's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Dolphin Swimming Club is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Directors David and Annie
We always aim for a
teaching ratio of either 2:1
or 1:1
Having once been a competitive swimmer, Director David
Ainsworth decided to establish his own teaching school
after watching his son have private lessons. The business
expanded over a 25-year period but, over the past couple of
years, they decided to reduce the number of students and
instructors in order to prioritise the quality of teaching their pupils
receive. Unlike larger swimming schools and leisure centres,
where children are often put in classes of six or more, they focus
on providing a teaching ratio of either 2:1 or 1:1. David tells
The Parliamentary Review
about the decision to recalibrate the
business and the difficulty he faces to recruit part-time staff.
Prior to establishing the company, I had competed as a swimmer and so had
developed extensive knowledge of the sport. Years later, while watching my son
have private lessons, I realised this was something that I could do, utilising the
experience and expertise I had developed over my career. One thing led to another
and after enquiring about becoming an instructor, I completed the training courses,
hired a swimming pool and set up my own swimming school.
The business grew from there and, from the outset, I completed all of the necessary
steps to support this growth: from marketing and advertising to tuition. The
business expanded to the point at which I had to hire staff and secured new venues
to match the increased demand. After the first year of trading, we attracted around
300 customers a week and eventually, at our largest, grew to have around 1,000
children and adults per week. Pupils are supported by a variety of staff with differing
skillsets, and at the peak size of the business, we had roughly 35 instructors.
»Directors: David and Annie
»Established in 1992
»Based in High Wycombe
»Services: Swimming instruction
»No. of employees: 12
Dolphin Swimming
Highlighting best practice
Focusing on quality rather
than quantity
We teach learners of all ages, from
pre-school children through to
adults. We teach to various levels of
proficiency and adapt our provision to
the needs of each age group. The size
of classes depends on the time of year:
during term time all of the students are
taught on a 2:1 basis, while during the
holidays this becomes 1:1. To ensure
we could provide the best possible
teaching, we have recalibrated the
business to focus on quality of tuition
rather than sheer volume. We have
reduced our staff to 12 and have also
reduced the number of children we
This smaller teacher-to-student ratio
allows us to get to know the children
and their parents better, further
understanding their individual needs. It
also means we can be more personally
approachable, and all learners know
they can speak to us directly. We
pride ourselves on the quality of our
teaching staff and ensure they are all
highly qualified. Beyond this, we meet
with them regularly to keep in touch
and talk about the children.
This smaller size also allows us to
be very user friendly. The individual
attention we can afford to give each
student also increases their confidence
levels, which allows them to progress
far quicker than they otherwise would.
This is a benefit to both the pupil and
their parents. We try to run the office
side of the business very efficiently and
ensure it is always easy to contact us.
People know us and our smaller size
has promoted an entirely different
working relationship with our clients.
The depth of our teaching
In the classes themselves, we pair
children with others of a similar age
and ability. All of our lessons are
structured around the Swimming
Teachers’ Association syllabus and we
are members of this organisation as
well as Swim England. We officially
assess our pupils twice a year and
this not only gives them a sense of
To ensure we provide
the best possible
teaching, we have
decreased the size of our
We have
the business
to focus on
quality of
rather than
sheer volume
achievement, it also helps the parents
gauge their children’s improvement.
Having said this, however, we do not
overemphasise the importance of this
testing process as all children develop
at their own pace. We encourage all
of our swimmers and ensure there is
no disappointment or negativity. We
empathise with all of our children,
giving them all the support they need.
We teach those pupils who wish to
progress to the point where they
could enter swimming clubs and
swim competitively. At this stage it is
entirely up to them as to whether they
want to go on to a larger pool and
push forward. Many of the pupils that
come to us stay with us, and we have
developed long-term relationships with
some of our clients: in some instances,
we have taught three generations of
the same family.
We are always looking to supplement
our provision in any way we can. This
includes establishing a swimmer of the
month award and looking at those
children who may have overcome a
fear, made real progress or developed
a great stroke.
The primary problem we face is
recruitment and a lack of available
staff. In the past we have employed
students on a part-time basis, but
unfortunately it can be difficult to
maintain consistency as they continue
with their education and move away.
There is a recognised shortage of
trained swimming instructors and the
result is that you have many swimming
schools all looking for staff. Most
swimming instructors are paid by the
hour, as are ours, and are usually
looking to maximise the hours they
work. This can mean they work for
more than one swimming school. It is
also very difficult to replace staff if they
are unavailable due to sickness as we
do not have the luxury of a bank of
spare instructors. Everyone is searching
for these scarce instructors and as we
can often only offer one day a week,
this can prove very challenging. Beyond
this, all swimming schools are looking
for instructors at exactly the same
time of the day: after school when the
majority of lessons take place.
We aim to consolidate the progress we
have made and continue to improve.
We are constantly looking to see if we
can do anything differently, especially
if we find something we could offer
to our customers that others cannot.
As the priorities of the business have
changed, we are no longer looking for
sheer volume of clients: we are looking
to fine-tune and perfect the quality of
our instruction.
We teach
those pupils
who wish to
progress to
the point
where they
could enter
clubs and
David with Les, one of
our oldest and most
respected pupils, at The
Marlow Club

This article was sponsored by Dolphin Swimming Club. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster