HUNDREDS of children could miss out on swimming lessons or be forced to travel out of the area in a row over teaching.
About 30 schools in Basildon were told Everyone Active would be taking over swimming lessons at Wickford Pool and Basildon Sporting Village from September.
The company is insisting pupils be taught by Everyone Active staff, or they won’t guarantee their teaching slots.
Schools were only told of the change three weeks ago and have been given a deadline of Tuesday to agree to the new terms.
But headteachers say they want to keep using Excel Swimming – which has been teaching pupils in Basildon for 15 years.
Isabel Unite, headteacher at Billericay’s Brightside Primary School for six years, said: “It feels very much like we are being bullied by a national organisation.
“We teach our children we have got to stand up to bullies and that’s what we are doing.
“We have been given no details about whether they are even qualified to teach our children how to swim.
“It just feels as though it is being rushed through.”
If the schools don’t agree, they will be forced to travel elsewhere to take children swimming.
Terry Flitman, headteacher at Wickford Junior School, said they were considering taking legal advice.
He said: “Wickford Juniors is right next door to Wickford Pool. But we could end up not using it – it’s ridiculous.
“We are very unhappy about the way this has been done. We don’t know about Everyone Active’s staffing and there’s no programme in place.”
Currently, Excel runs swimming lessons for children at both pools – hiring them out from Everyone Active, which manages the centres on behalf of Basildon Council.
Mr Flitman added: “I have been here for 14 years and Excel has been teaching our children to swim throughout that time. They know our children. I really don’t want an argument with Basildon Council or Everyone Active.
We just don’t understand why we can’t use our own staff.”
Luke Bulpett, 40, headteacher at Kingswood Junior School, Basildon, said: “We have nothing against Everyone Active but it’s very short notice. We start to plan for the next academic year in January. My governors discussed swimming then and Excel were doing a good job so we decided to stay with them.”
EVERYONE Active confirmed it would only book swimming slots with schools, which signed up by Tuesday.
A spokesman said the changes would not come in until September, would make swimming lessons free and meant more children would be able to take part in swimming lessons.
She said: “The changes taking place at Basildon Sporting Village and Wickford Swimming Pool mean that Everyone Active will be able to offer school swimming lessons for free. We are absolutely delighted to be able to offer 40,000 free lessons over the course of the 2014/2015 academic year as part of our commitment to increasing participation in sport and our legacy pledge to get 500,000 children active.
“We are 100% committed to honouring the current pool timetabling slot of any school that contacts us by 22nd July 2014.
"23 schools have already signed up for the scheme and are thrilled with the new free provision of lessons. Several of these schools were not able to access any swimming in the borough at all under the old system.
"No changes will take effect until the start of the September term and we will continue to do all that we can to make the switchover as seamless as possible.
“Local Schools can be confident about the level of swimming tuition pupils will receive.
"Everyone Active’s Swim Schools at both Basildon Sporting Village and Wickford Swimming Pool have just been awarded ‘Quest Learn to Swim Accreditation,’ which is the ASA’s aquatic quality mark for the development of effective, ethical and sustainable swimming.
"The Everyone Active Swim School has also won ASA Swimming Operator of the Year twice in the last four years.”
Basildon Council said Excel had its contract terminated and schools which wanted to continue working with it would have to use other facilities.
Gary Edwards, Basildon Council’s head of leisure services, said: “We have been advised by Everyone Active that Excel Swimming, which provide swimming lessons for some schools in the borough, have had their hire contract ended because they have not met the facility hire terms and conditions.
“Everyone Active, who run 70 pools nationally and has vast experience in delivering swimming lessons, has offered the same slots to every school via their school swimming programme.
“We have also worked with Everyone Active to ensure that all of our local schools are aware of and have access to their recently announced free school swimming programme.
“If schools wish to retain Excel as their provider they can but will no longer be able to do this at pools at Wickford Swim and Fitness Centre or Basildon Sporting Village.”
But Zoe Dean, school swimming manager at Excel Swimming, said they did not know why the contract had been terminated.
She said: “It’s just bizarre.
"We are rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and have never had any issues with Essex County Council or Basildon Council.”