Barnstaple swim teacher helps win China contract

Joseph Bulmer

AS the Prime Minister negotiates new trade with his Chinese counterpart, a North Devon mum of four is a length ahead as she prepares to sign a contract to provide swimming lessons for the whole of China.

Lisa Bousted, founder of Aquarius Swim School, has spent a great deal of time in China during the past year on behalf of the Swimming Teachers Association introducing local instructors to the notion of baby swimming classes and showing them how to teach their youngest students.

The Barnstaple mum, who is the STA’s baby swim ambassador and expert for the UK, was invited to Beijing by Chinese company Family Box, whose CEO and Chinese Government liaison Maggie Ma will visit London on Monday to sign an exclusive contract with the STA.

Thanks to Lisa’s efforts it means the company and the association will have exclusive rights for the next five years to teach baby swimming classes in the country, which has a population of 1.3 billion.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao was also in London meeting David Cameron on Monday, for a visit intended to boost commercial, economic and political links between the countries.

“What we’re doing is supported by the Chinese government. We are looking at rolling out 50 centres across China in the next 10 years and I am an integral part of that,” said Lisa, as she explained her own “small” deal on behalf of the STA.

When she first visited this time last year Lisa set about training her Chinese counterparts and helping to establish the country’s first swim school dedicated to babies.

“There were many cultural differences and I have had to adapt my training accordingly,” she explained.

“China has a one child policy so whenever they do anything the whole family gets involved. For them, something like getting a child’s ears wet is a massive thing and we have to be there to reassure and support them.

“We’re trying to promote that it’s okay to take babies swimming from birth and that there’s an awful lot you can teach them.

“The teachers themselves were quite shy and I had to encourage them out of their shells. I have been teaching them all aspects from swimming teaching to underwater photography and marketing.

“It’s been the most amazing experience of my life and even I did not realise quite how big it all was. I am treated like a celebrity when I am out there!”

Lisa’s successful North Devon operation now teaches around 1,500 children each week and has contracts with 14 local primary schools, but her Chinese connection has opened even more doors.

She has been invited to speak for a second time at the world Aquatic Baby Conference in Florida and has just returned from London after helping to launch the UK’s first ever National Baby Swimming Week with former Steps singer Lisa Scott-Lee.

Lisa is returning to China for her third visit this September.