teaching unions have joined forces to condemn council chiefs for making swimming teachers redundant and replacing them with instructors.

Leaders of the East Lancashire branches of the NUT and NASUWT have blasted the move which they say will mean a much poorer standard of swimming lessons for children in Blackburn and Darwen.

The union bosses say anger has swept through the teaching profession in East Lancashire at the decision and are now mounting a joint campaign to oppose the plans.

Dick Greenfield, a Lancashire member of the NASUWT national executive, said: "When we told the swimming service staff of the proposals they were at first devastated and this was then quickly followed by a feeling of anger that one of the best swimming services in the UK was to be dismantled.

"I find it difficult to understand that a beacon education authority can suggest such changes when it will mean that future generations of Blackburn and Darwen schoolchildren will receive a much poorer swimming service than those of past generations.

"The swimming teachers are being given the choice of redundancy or working at an hourly rate which is less than half of what they now receive.

"What a way to value the essential service that they provide with such expertise. If school are being told that they can receive the same level of service that they presently enjoy for a much cheaper cost then they are being sadly deceived. NUT Lancashire secretary Simon Jones added: "This authority is constantly telling us about their mission to raise standards.

"Unfortunately however, what the council seem more concerned with are positions in league tables and results in a very narrow section of the curriculum.

"Since Blackburn with Darwen took over the education service in 1998 we have seen services like music and outdoor education being cut to save money. Now it seems swimming is going the same way."

Eighteen-year-old East Lancashire swimmer Stacey Houldsworth (pictured), of Great Harwood, who has won several national swimming events, has also blasted the move.

She said: "This will just stop people getting involved in swimming and the sport will be affected. I am very disappointed to hear this."

A Blackburn with Darwen Council spokesman said: "The council is not proposing to reduce any swimming lessons for children at all. The service is being reviewed is to ensure that we continue to provide a 'best value' service for our children. "The proposals are to continue to provide lessons via qualified swimming instructors rather than classroom qualified teachers which is considered best practice nationwide and less expensive."

The spokesman added: "Secondly the music service is not being reduced, in fact the opposite is true.

"Blackburn with Darwen Council has just announced it is to spend £300,000 on setting up its own music service to encourage and develop musical skills of its pupils in the next financial year.

"Thirdly the outdoor teaching service has not been cut and we continue to provide funding to schools to provide outdoor education services for our pupils."

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