Would be swimmers left high and dry at top international school

Classes cancelled since early last month as instructors revealed to lack qualifications

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 November, 2014, 3:31am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 November, 2014, 3:31am

Swimming classes at a top international school have been suspended since early last month because its physical education teachers failed to meet safety requirements.

John Nelson, the headmaster of the International Christian School, confirmed the suspension of classes but said all students would receive their planned allotment of swimming training over the course of the current school year.

Under Education Bureau safety guidelines, all physical education teachers giving swimming classes must have obtained a lifesaving qualification of bronze medallion or above, which the school's teachers lack.

Steve Metz, the former manager of the school's aquatics centre, said at least two of the staff members who worked at the centre were qualified to teach the classes, but they had been relegated to support roles, assisting the physical education teachers but not leading the instruction.

Metz said he and the two instructors had taught swimming classes until Nelson decided last year to hand over the duty to the school's regular physical education teachers.

"We had a perfect record," said Mertz, a qualified physical education and swimming teacher. "I felt that if the headmaster allowed unqualified PE teachers to teach swimming, then as the aquatics centre manager, I would be blamed should a safety issue happen. So I decided to ask for early retirement. Swimming is inherently a dangerous sport."

Parents are angry that they were kept in the dark about the reason for the suspension.

"It was only in the last parents' meeting in October that we and some staff heard for the first time about what went on with the pool," said a parent with two children at the school who did not want to be named.

"Nelson said repeatedly the whole thing was caused by the sudden retirement of a staff member, but that is not true," the parent said, referring to Metz.

Metz said he submitted to Nelson in April a 65-page report stressing the safety requirements but no action was taken. The Education Bureau also contacted the school asking it to comply with the safety regulations.

The bureau has also reportedly inquired about swim teachers' qualifications at other international schools.

Nelson said he would not comment on personnel matters.

Swimming lessons are supposed to be available to students of grades one to 12 at the Sha Tin school, where annual tuition exceeds HK$100,000.