'Nobody at my school is currently swimming which is a tragedy' a headteacher told a meeting last night looking at ways to try and reopen Ships and Castles.

Over 150 people gathered at Princess Pavilion last night to hear a presentation from members of Pendennis Leisure community interest company which was originally set up to bid to run the now closed leisure centre on Pendennis Headland.

Members of the public and councillors from Falmouth, Penryn, Mylor, Wendron and surrounding areas came together to discuss the future of swimming, leisure and sports provision for the towns.

There was widespread agreement that everything possible should be done to reopen Ships and Castles and get young people learning to swim again as an urgent priority. Everyone present recognised that, now Ships & Castles has been closed, it will be a major challenge to reopen, both operationally and financially - but the people were unanimous in their will to try.

There was also strong determination among the community to work with partners, including Cornwall Council, local councils and the local MP Cherilyn Macrory, to bring forward plans for a 21st century swim and leisure centre suitable for the diverse needs of the communities of Falmouth, Penryn and surrounding areas.


Flats in historic courtyard would have destroyed 'small oasis' said pub owner

The meeting was told that only seven out of 13 local schools have provision in place for swimming lessons in the next academic year and in the meantime Cornwall has the highest number of drowning fatalities over the past five years .

Hannah Stevens from St Francis School told the meeting it was a "tragedy" that no one at her school is currently learning to swim: "We feel really morally responsible for having that generation of children learn to swim," she said. "My own children learnt to swim at Ships and Castles and we really feel we have that responsibility as headteachers in Falmouth to provide that. At the moment the situation is impossible because there are no pools that can take us.

"At St Francis we used Ships and Castles every week for swimming and actually it's not just lost learning and lost full time swimming time, the children have lost two years of education so they can't afford lost learning time travelling as well. So there's a financial cost, there's a learning cost and also the swimming cost as well so it's really difficult, in fact it has been impossible to find that provision so nobody at my school is currently swimming which is a tragedy."

She said they had had conversations with Cornwall Council who had appointed someone whose job it was to find a solution but they were three months down the line but no solution had come forward.

"As primary school teachers we are 'Jack of all Trades', we'll have a go at teaching swimming but we are not qualified swimming instructors," she said. "One of the things Ships and Castles provided when we went there were the swimming instructors as well as members of staff, so we are really feeling it from the school perspective and we live in Falmouth. Children MUST be able to swim."

She said the statistic that Cornwall had the highest number of coastline drownings had really shocked her and what those statistics might look like in five to ten years time if pupils were not being taught to swim now were "not worth thinking about".