Long running row over lessons for autistic children ends

Kevin Anderson has ‘reluctantly’ withdrawn from providing lessons at the Moray Leisure Centre. (pic: Facebook/Riding High)

THE LONG-RUNNING ROW between an experienced and respected swimming coach and the Moray Leisure Centre has finally come to an end.

Kevin Anderson had been providing private swimming lessons at the Leisure Centre pool for autistic children with the full backing and support of the National Autistic Society in Scotland.

However, the owner and operator of the ‘Riding High Moray’ Swim, Surf and Safety firm was twice banned from the pool amid accusations that he had breached safety rules – sparking fury locally and nationally.

Now it has emerged that Mr Anderson has been told he can no longer provide lessons at the Leisure Centre unless he agrees to pay an hourly fee of £26.25 for private ‘lane space’ – with no ‘after school’ hire time available, effectively ending his ability to offer group training sessions for school-age children.

As a result Mr Anderson has told insideMoray that he has reluctantly had to accept that continuing in the Elgin centre was no longer possible – but, from this week, he will instead offer sessions at the Moray Hydrotherapy Pool in Forres.

He said: “It was not my decision to leave the centre – in fact I am very disappointed that the Leisure Centre made it impossible for me to continue and has resulted in many of my clients having to pull out of lessons as they can’t make the change in pools.

“This all came about when the centre sent me a letter saying that in all departments a process was being implemented to monitor all outside instructors that were using the facilities. this is most common in the ice rink and gym – it is just me in the pool.“I initially thought this was a great idea as to have a clear agreement between myself and the centre was something I requested when I started my swim school in 2015, but was told it wasn’t necessary. The letter I received gave a list of terms, adding that under health and safety instructors would need to hire an area of the facility for sole use of the instructor and their clients.”

The acting chairman of the board running the Leisure Centre explained that the decision to restrict access to public areas for the private lessons came from legal advice from the centre’s insurers.

Mr Anderson added: “I was able to speak to the centre’s insurance provider and they confirmed this, explaining that if there was an accident between my clients and another member of the public then my own insurance company would say that it was the centre’s insurance to pay out.”

That was a situation that Mr Anderson said he reluctantly had to accept, adding that he could not fault the new board members for their efforts to begin closely monitoring the situation with the Moray Leisure Centre.

He added: “When I first asked permission to run these lessons within the public areas of the pool it was simply said that there was no policy [for them] to say no. There was no thought from the management to check their insurance, so I started my swim school and it grew to 80 clients each week – only to be stopped immediately.

“Although it’s disappointing that I can no longer use the centre and would not of chosen to leave there for the fantastic facility it is, I am hugely relieved to have space at the Forres pool and look forward to working in a more positive environment leaving all the negative incidents at the centre behind.

“I am very grateful for the time that Mr Brown (MC sports and leisure manager) and the staff at Forres have given to ensure that Riding High swim school is ready to get back to lessons.

“I am also excited to be in the middle of arranging group lessons at the Moray Hydrotherapy pool – this is a fantastic facility, a small pool with very warm water making it perfect for teaching young kids.”

Spaces are now available for the new lessons in Forres as several parents who took their children to Elgin have reluctantly decided to withdraw as a result of the move.

Anyone wishing to know more about the lessons should contact Kevin by email to riding-high@outlook.com or visit them on Facebook.