Fair Isle children travel by air to learn to swim

(L-R) Grace Parnaby, Lewis Wright-Stanners and Freyja Parnaby get ready to fly to their swimming lesson from their home on Fair Isle. Picture: SWNS
(L-R) Grace Parnaby, Lewis Wright-Stanners and Freyja Parnaby get ready to fly to their swimming lesson from their home on Fair Isle. Picture: SWNS
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Three children have to take a flight from a remote Scottish island so they can learn to swim.

Freyja Parnaby, six, Grace Parnaby, nine, and Lewis Wright-Stanners, nine, regularly travel from the Fair Isle to Shetland for their lessons.

Each time they face the potential that their flight home may be cancelled due to adverse weather, leaving them stranded on the mainland.

The children, from Fair Isle Primary School, take the 25-minute flight with their head teacher Ruth Stout, funded by the education department.

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She said: “As we don’t have a pool on Fair Isle, for the kids to be able to learn to swim we simply have to fly to the nearest pool.

“About 50% of our lessons that we plan don’t happen as the weather often sees our flights get cancelled at short notice.

“It’s not the smoothest journey from Fair Isle to Tingwall - in the summer there can be too much fog to fly and in the winter too much wind.

“So we just have to be flexible. We always over pack, for example, because we can’t take it as a given that if we do make it to the mainland we’ll be able to get back.”

Fair Isle - home to 60 people - is the most geographically remote inhabited island in the United Kingdom.

It is 25 miles south of Shetland’s mainland and 237 miles away.

The archipelago is the UK’s most northerly provider of Scottish Swimming’s Learn to Swim Framework - backed by Scottish Water - with around 900 youngsters from across the islands receiving lessons at eight pools delivered by Shetland Recreational Trust.

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Fair Isle’s pupils and headteacher stay at Anderson High School’s halls of residence on Shetland for two or three nights at a time so they can fit in multiple lessons.

Gary Morgan, lead aquatics teacher at Clickimin Leisure Complex, added: “It’s always a pleasure to teach the children from Fair Isle, especially given the remarkable effort they make to travel to the pool.

“Their enthusiasm is wonderful and it’s great to have the Learn to Swim Framework to document their progress.”

Brian Lironi, of Scottish Water, said: “Shetland - and remote islands such as Fair Isle - are surrounded by water so it’s so important that children, from a young age, are competent swimmers.

“We’re extremely proud to be supporting the Learn to Swim Framework across Scotland and it’s fantastic to see that even when pools aren’t always within easy reach, geography is no barrier to learning to swim.”