Pickering impressed by new pool

Olympic finalist Karen Pickering was so impressed with the new hydrotherapy pool she opened at a Norfolk special needs school today, she promised to start classes there herself.

Olympic finalist Karen Pickering was so impressed with the new hydrotherapy pool she opened at a Norfolk special needs school today, she promised to start classes there herself.

The Ipswich-based swimmer was in Attleborough to open the Chapel Road School pool following a two-year drive by the community to raise £140,000 to fund it.

Chapel Road caters for 62 pupils aged three to 19 from the south Norfolk area with profound learning difficulties.

An original hydrotherapy pool was built in the 1970s but had become so run down that headteacher Karin Heap was left with a choice between raising the £140,000 or pulling it down.

Today there were smiles all round as three of the school's pupils became the first to try out the new pool, splashing around under the watchful eye of the 2004 double Olympic finalist.

Mrs Heap said that the hydrotherapy pool, which is heated to 34C, will play an essential part in the pupils' education.

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“Many of our pupils are in a wheelchair from the beginning of their lives with everyone doing everything for them, giving them no control over their lives at all,” she said.

“Being in the pool is the first time that they're independent, moving their limbs and making something happen, so having a hydrotherapy pool is critical for both exercising the body and advance learning.

“For so many years our last pool didn't have anything done to it, the staff had to change in the chemical room, the equipment was not safe.

“This is a wonderful new pool, which will last for 15 years, and is fantastic both for individual learning and improving confidence.”

Along with new showers, toilets and changing facilities the new pool incorporates a hoist and shower-bed for use for people requiring a wheelchair.

Ms Pickering, 29, said: “It's great to see any school get a facility like this, which gives more people the experience of swimming, but particularly at schools for those with special needs like Chapel Road.

“Some of these kids might never be able to have the benefits of moving and the fun they can have if it wasn't for hydrotherapy pools like this. This is a superb facility.”

The swimmer, who gained 13 medals in Commonwealth Games between 1986 and 2005, launched her first Karen Pickering Swim school in Ipswich last month and will start another in Norwich in January.

She said that after learning about the Attleborough pool she will now start talks about introducing a bump to baby school there next year, which will include sessions taught by herself.