King Edwards Swimming Pool, Sheffield

  • A small swimming pool located in Sheffield. Built in 1933.
  • Transferred to an independent trust in 1993 as part of a reorganisation of Sheffield facilities around the 1991 World Student Games.
  • No support from the council, post-transfer in 1993, until capital provided for repairs in 2012. A further grant from the Inspired facilities fund in 2014.
  • Costs reduced by: reviewing utility providers, changed staff conditions and flexibility, and careful attention to detail.
  • Income increased by: more effective programming to use pool time, expansion of swimming lessons and development of new sessions.

1. Description before transfer

The pool was built in 1933 as part of King Edward VII School, whose ground it occupies. Prior to transfer in 1993 it was being run as a council facility, completely separate from the school. The catchment area was local. The pool is a thirty three and a third yard pool with two shallow ends and the deepest part of the pool is 1.37m

2. The catalyst for a transfer

The council planned to close the pool as part of redeveloping swimming facilities in Sheffield for the World Student Games in 1991. Several other small pools were closed at the same time, diverting demand to the two new flagship facilities: Ponds Forge and Hillsborough. These pools are 2 and 3 miles from King Edwards, respectively. They are centrally situated for public transport in Sheffield, but King Edwards is more easily accessible from the South West of the city.

3. The process of asset transfer

Prior to transfer the pool had a board of directors including a chair who was an ex-pupil of King Edwards School. The chair recruited four other people to become trustees of a charitable trust, King Edward VII School Swimming Pool Trust, formed in 1993 to run the pool. The trust is limited by guarantee. The trust took over the pool management from the council, paying a peppercorn rent of £300 per year with an initial 12 year lease.

Nothing was spent on the pool building by the council before transfer. The pool manager, post-transfer, felt that the council were willing for the trust to take over the pool because they did not think it was economically viable and would fold in 6 months. The closure of other local facilities had been politically unpopular and if King Edwards closed after the trust had taken it over this could be attributed to the trust rather than the council.

The trustees were private business people. They had experience of running businesses, but not swimming pools or leisure facilities. They employed a prominent local swimming instructor to be the new pool manager. The new manager was an experienced swimming teacher and previous to the transfer had been working for Sheffield Recreation Services where he re-wrote Sheffield's Swim Scheme. He was trained as an electrical engineer, but knew nothing about the technicalities of running a swimming pool. There were no manuals left in the building so he had to teach himself how to run the plant. After 18 months he attended a training course on pool maintenance, run by the Institute of Baths and Recreation Management (from which CIMSPA has developed).

No assistance was provided by the council, apart from providing a £50 float on the first Monday of trust operation, and which was reclaimed on the first Friday.

4. The role of volunteers after transfer

The 4 original trustees from 1990 remain, with a new one joining five years ago. Apart from work placement volunteers, the trustees are the only volunteers. There is not a friends group.

5. Changes in the pool – post transfer

The trust criteria specify a certain amount of public use. Swimming lessons were greatly expanded; building on the expertise of the new manager. The programme was totally changed to make use of as much of the opening time as possible, after consultation with local people. For example, there is public swimming from 7.15 to 8.45 every week day morning. Previously these were times when the pool might be open, but under used, or not used at all. The programme has been kept as stable as possible and the manager feels this continuity is important in maintaining demand. The most important sessions are swimming lessons for children. Others sessions include: over 50’s; mother and toddlers – with warm water; adult lessons; aquarobics for adults and lane swimming. The developed programme greatly expanded the catchment area which now extends to Barnsley and Derbyshire. All the numerous local private schools use the pool, which is in walking distance. This use has been expanded to fill most of the school terms.

No staff transferred from the council. Apart from the manager all staff are employed on the minimum wage rate and are not in a employer contribution pension scheme. Previously staff would take just one role but now all staff perform all roles required at the pool – cleaning, reception, poolside, etc - and rotate at 20 minute intervals. They are only employed for the hours when they are required. Thus the pool of staff are deployed as a resource to match demand. As labour is the main cost this means costs have been considerably reduced as staff time is used most effectively.

A close watch has been made on all costs, such as turning off lights and equipment when not required, taking the same attitude as if it was one’s own house. Utility bills have been renegotiated every two years to take advantage of the best rates by one of the trustees who has expertise in this as part of his job.

There is no formal link to King Edwards School, apart from use of the school car park after 3.30pm. and at weekends. At other times parking has to be on local streets, which is limited. Greater links with the school have been discussed, but not developed.

The initial 12 year lease was extended to a further 12 years, and then extended further to allow a large capital grant to be applied for, see below.

6. The additional contribution of volunteers

  • The only volunteers are the trustees, who bring a set of business skills and contacts; for example, in negotiating the most favourable utility rates. Volunteers are not used in other roles and there is not a ‘friends group’ to raise funds or support the pool.

7. Important success factors

  • The most important factor is probably the single minded determination of the new pool manager to make the pool viable. This included the challenge of teaching himself to run the pool plant.
  • The trustees brought a package of skills.
  • Costs were cut by changing staff conditions and using staff much more effectively as a resource to match demand.
  • Costs were cut by a careful attention to each item and by renegotiating utility bills regularly.
  • Income was raised by expanding the programme to fill as much of the pool time as possible.
  • The expanded programme matches strong local demand for swimming lessons and for sessions, such as over 50’s and mother and toddler.
  • There is also strong local demand from a concentration of local private schools within close walking distance.
  • Unlike other facilities there was no co-operation from the council in facilitating the transfer and no early upgrade of facilities. However, in a way this reinforced the new manager’s motivation to make it succeed. In his view, at the time of transfer, the council perceived the pool as an unwelcome competitor. Relations have improved since 2009 as the pool has fed children into the Sheffield swimming squad, based at Ponds Forge swimming pool. Sheffield council provided a subsidy of running costs for the two years before 2012.The Council supported capital refurbishments in 2012. Extension of the lease in 2014 allowed successful application for a further grant for capital improvements.

8. Sustainability

In 2012 a complete new roof was put on the pool and extensive re-wiring and new boilers fitted. Funds were provided by the council for this work. Two directors contributed donations and there were some other private donations and a loan.

At the end of 2014 the pool was awarded a grant of £50,000 from the Inspired Facilities fund. This will be used to insulate some of the roof and refurbish the ladies’ changing rooms and showers. At the time of application for the grant the lease with the council only had two years to run, so the council extended it for another 20 years to meet a condition of the grant.

A few thousand pounds was spent by the trust on ongoing repairs and maintenance when the income was high and the money was more available. This was mainly in the early years of the trust taking over, up to about 2008/9. This money was spent on the plant room, shower areas and repairs.

These are the only significant capital improvements made since the trust took over the pool. This recent work reflects a more supportive attitude from the council over the last few years.

It was not difficult to recruit one new trustee.  

Official website

King Edward VII School Swimming Pool Trust


Geoff Nichols: University of Sheffield
Deborah Forbes: University of Newcastle
Lindsay Findlay-King and Gordon Macfadyen: University of Northumbria

©2015 The University of Sheffield

Case study added: 18 Feb 2015