Booking the swimming lessons

I’ve mentioned this in passing a couple of times before, but I think it warrants its own post. THE SYSTEM FOR BOOKING SWIMMING LESSONS ROUND HERE IS RIDICULOUS.

My family has been having swimming lessons since my eldest was 4. Yes, he’s 12 now. That’s a long time to be battling the world’s most ridiculous swimming booking system. Thankfully the boys finished their lessons a year ago and the end is in sight for my daughter. But for many years we had to deal with this crap nonsense for all three kids.

You know there’s this great invention called the internet where you can Do Things? They don’t use that. There’s another useful invention. It’s called The Telephone. They don’t use that either.

Towards the end of the term, you get a sheet of ticks to tell you whether your child is moving up or staying put. And this is where you feel conflicted. Because you really, really want your child to do well and succeed (as well as save money on swimming lessons), but the downside of them passing is – YOU HAVE TO BOOK NEW SWIMMING LESSONS.

If they’re staying put, it’s easy. You just go along to the cash desk at the end of their lesson and book them on for next term. But if they’re moving up…

They used to do it at the crack of dawn. Now, being an early bird, I didn’t mind that. They used to say booking opened at 7.30am, but I used to get there at 6.45 and join a long queue (seriously!) and they’d already be serving people. I would usually be out and on my way to work by 7.30. Not exactly ideal, but not terrible.

But I suppose people must have complained – I can see the system is unfair on single parents, for example – or maybe it was difficult to staff. Either way, they concluded that Sunday afternoon was a much better time to do the bookings. Why just mess up a bit of early morning, when you could mess up a whole chunk of valuable weekends for a lot of people?

Last time my daughter moved up, booking started at 2pm. I got there at 1.45 and queued in the car park in the cold all the way to the back of the next building. I waited two hours and I couldn’t get the lessons we wanted. I don’t mind telling you, I was close to tears. The new lessons meant my daughter had to have an early tea, then my mum took her to the swimming pool and I picked her up after work. Not great, but we managed to make it work because we had no choice.

This time booking started at 3. On the day of my half marathon. This is only marginally better than mucking up my 40th birthday, which fell on the following Sunday. Could I just leave it and not go, I hear you ask? Well, no. Because if we don’t go, my daughter becomes a new student and it’s EVEN HARDER to get her in.

I told my husband we would get there at 1. ‘Well if you’re going to wait two hours anyway, why not just go at 3?’ Because, actually, I really, really want to get the lessons at the right time. The course she needed ran at 9.30 on a Saturday morning or 6.30 on a Monday or Tuesday. Monday or Tuesday would have come straight after dance class, making eating impossible. Not exactly ideal for a 7 year old girl. We had to get the Saturday lessons, even though it will create some difficulties with my son’s football (why does EVERYTHING create some difficulties?).

Being half marathon day, my mum took pity on us. We decided to do the queuing in shifts. She planned to arrive at 1pm. Booking starts at 3pm, remember. She arrived at 12.35pm. She was SIXTEENTH in the queue.

This time they’d improved the system slightly, but it’s still out of the ark. They gave out numbers when you arrived – rather like the shoe shop or the deli in the supermarket – so you could at least go inside and sit down rather than stand in the car park for two hours.

At 3pm they started serving. I was 16th in the queue. I got my Saturday morning lessons. It was such a relief.

But why the blinking flip can’t they just do it online like the rest of the world?!

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. Wow, must be some queue. With our swimming you book into your same class for the next session and then the instructors move around the children who are moving up and try and find them a space. If this isn’t suitable you go to the back of the queue again, I think they like to make things complicated don’t they !

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  2. that does sound bonkers! Parents have far better things to do that queue up for swimming lessons. Our leisure centre is rubbish at communication but you can renew lessons online and over the phone. It sounds like you need to introduce them to the internet! xx

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  3. I applaud your commitment, if I had gone through that once I just wouldnt have bothered again!! Ours just booked at the second to last lesson of the term, whether they changed groups or not, and like you we had to just hope there was room in a convenient time slot. Bloomin’ nuisance really!

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  4. I think ‘what the blinking flip’ is my favourite phrase ever!! Very very silly system, it is similar here but we pay a small fortune for ours to go to a private pool which is amazing and the rebooking is so simple (apart from the sheer pain if having to pay so much). Glad it’s nearly over for you

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  5. Gosh that is daft, ours are a direct debit every month & if you move up you just pick a suitable class from what’s available that day, or stay put until one becomes available. Simple & straightforward! Your lot certainly like making work for themselves, as well as everyone else!

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  6. Thanks very much, it sounds like everyone else everywhere has got this sorted. It’s hardly rocket science, is it? I’m just grateful that my daughter is now on the top level so we will never have to go through it again!
    Glad you like ‘what the blinking flip’ Nikki 🙂 You can take those words as you find them, or you can replace them with stronger words!
    Thanks re the half marathon, Angie!

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  7. Oh my god what an absolute faff!! That queue makes it sound like the worlds best sale ever for people to be there 3 hours early. Wow. Glad you got it sorted though. Imagine how much money they would save just by getting people to do it online. Wow. Wow.

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  8. My daughter works at reception at our local leisure centre – they have a similar system and she finds it as frustrating as you do! I’m sure it can’t be as complex as they make it!

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  9. Yip, tis same round our way too. Unbelievably convoluted to the point where I no longer do it and now feel massively guilty that Ma Puce is falling behind with her swimming. I even looked into joining a health club so I could do it that way, but unfortunately there aren’t any with swimming pools really close to us in Hackney, so it’s all gone by the wayside. But I still can’t bring myself to go through the pain of the booking system!!

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  10. How utterly, utterly ridiculous and infuriating. What is it with swimming lessons? Ours are a nightmare too, so I’ve opted to walk 25 mins to a different pool each week for L’s lessons. Grrrr!

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  11. ahhhhh yes. I am on a local forum for parents in our town on Facebook and this comes up a lot. Why is it so damned hard?!!! It isnt rocket science is it?!!

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  12. Good grief! I don’t know what our local pool is like because we have private lessons. We started there with baby swimming and keep going because it works for us: nice warm pool, loads of parking, small classes and friendly teachers (and none of this rubbish).

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  13. It’s one of the things that has put me off paying for additional swimming lessons above and beyond the school ones. What used to make it even more fun was that booking was held at a different centre to where the lessons happened. It must have taken a huge amount of work to come up with something that complicated.

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  14. Sounds like a total nightmare love. Is there no-one else providing swimming lessons in your area? My sons go with a company called SwimEasy, but we have a choice of going with the council-run leisure centre lessons, or with other private companies which regularly run classes at local pools.

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  15. Thanks very much, everyone. It certainly isn’t rocket science! I must say I’m surprised there are other pools that have this system anywhere in the country! There are other pools near here, but we went to one a few years back and the teaching was rubbish! I’m pleased to say that is the last time I will ever have to do that as daughter is now at the top level. I think after eight years I’ve done my time!

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  16. Wow, what a load of rigmarole, and it must be worse knowing that it could all have been made so much simpler. At least this is your last year, well done for persevering for all this time!

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  17. Tell me about it! I’m so pleased I don’t ever have to go through it again!

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