An unconventional Figtree swimming school which uses simulated drowning scenarios to teach children to swim has sparked complaints from neighbours, who say listening to hours of “cries, screaming and gagging” is having a “disastrous effect” on their lives.
Father of two Ben Cornwell has raised the alarm about the Kids Aquatic Survival School, which has been operating from his neighbour’s house for the past few years.
The swim school runs short one-on-one lessons for up to four hours a day and is part of a franchise known for a controversial approach, where young children are pushed to go under water more quickly than at conventional swim schools and taught strategies to save themselves from drowning.
“The extreme nature of the teaching methods causes participating children an inordinate degree of distress and discomfort,” Mr Cornwell said.
“It sounds like they’re torturing these kids. The inevitable cries, screaming, gagging that results is having a disastrous impact on my family’s well-being and state of mind.
“Over the past few months, the screaming has been relentless and we have been unable to open doors and windows on sweltering 30 degree summer days.”
Mr Cornwell said he had approached the swim school operator about the noise but said she had been “unapologetic”.
With he and his wife unable to do work from home and his two kids stressed from the hours of crying, he has taken to making recordings from inside his house and started keeping a log book for Wollongong council.
“As far as I’m concerned, I want it shut down, I just don’t think this type of business should be allowed to operate in a quiet residential street,” he said.
Like Mr Cornwell, Risley Road resident Jenelle Livet – who lives directly behind the home with the swim school – has made complaints and says her work and home life has been badly affected.
“It’s just heart wrenching, the kids sound very distraught and I don’t want to be in my own home and have to feel so upset for other people’s kids,” Ms Livet said.
Owner of the swim school franchise Rachelle Beesley stood by the unusual swimming school approach, saying the school was “doing a good thing for the community by saving children’s lives”.
“Yes there is a little bit of crying, but it’s not crying all day long, it’s intermittent,” she said.
“Some of them only cry for the first few weeks, and it’s not traumatising children. It’s just because they’re getting pushed out of that comfort zone.”
The swim school operator, Megg Grundy, said she was aware of neighbours’ complaints about her business and said she planned to build a full enclosure for her pool which would keep in the noise.
“Look, children do cry in the lessons, but their children scream all the time next door so it’s no difference than if I had my own kids,” she said.
Wollongong council said it had received two noise complaints about the school and was “currently in the process of investigating these”.