BOSSES of a fitness company locked in a row with Basildon schools over swimming lessons have defended their actions.

Everyone Active, which manages Wickford Swimming Pool and Basildon Sporting Village for Basildon Council, is set to run all school swimming lessons at the two sites from September.

Most schools in the borough have been using Excel Swimming for the past ten years.

But Everyone Active said it terminated Excel’s use of its pools over “repeated breaches of contract”.

Headteachers, who are angry theywere only given three weeks’ notice, said they wanted the right to choose who would teach their children.

But the company has said they are acting in the best interests of the schools by offering the lessons free.

Duncan Jefford, regional director, said: “I agree we could have given the schools more notice.

“But the reason we didn’t is because the terms of terminating Excel Swimming’s lease of the pool meant they only have one month notice and we gave that to them on July 1. We have 23 schools signed up for this from September and they all know when they’re swimming.”

Headteachers, who complained they did not know enough about Everyone Active’s teaching methods, have until Tuesday to keep their pool places for September.

If they want to keep Excel, schools will have to go elsewhere.

Mr Jefford said Everyone Active’s teachers were fully qualified to a high standard and would have no problem teaching children.

He said: “From a health and safety point of viewwe have been through everything with the schools.

“We have even offered them to come in and look at our school swimming so they can see for themselves what we do.

“We will keep that offer on the table even if they don’t decide to come with us from September.

They can take up swimming with us from next January if they come back to us between nowand Christmas.”

A spokesman for Excel Swimming has said they did not knowwhy their contract has been terminated. Gary Edwards, head of leisure services at Basildon Council, said they were aware of the situation.

He 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 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.”