MORE than 40,000 free swimming lessons are being offered to Basildon youngsters.

Everyone Active, which runs Basildon Sporting Village and Wickford swimming pool for Basildon Council, has announced the classes for five to 11-year-olds.

The scheme has the enthusiastic backing of no less a swimmer than Olympic gold medal winner Rebecca Adlington, who was full of praise for the borough’s sports lovers.

She said: “It’s absolutely incredible.

“These kids are going to learn a skill they’ll use for the rest of their lives. For me that’s greater than any Olympic medal. I’m blown away by the whole of Basildon and its commitment to sport. It’s just what the whole country should be doing.”

A total of 23 schools in the borough have already signed up for the free swimming lessons, running right through the next academic year.

The scheme was announced by Miss Adlington, after the recent Legacy Games Day at Basildon Sporting Village.

Everyone Active wants to encourage children to take up exercise by learning to swim.

Manager Tom Fletcher said: “We’re thrilled with the uptake so far and are looking forward to throwing open our doors and welcoming local schoolchildren to learn to swim for free at both our pools.

“Places are filling up fast, but there is still time to take part in the initiative, so please get in touch if you’re interested.

“Children of all abilities are welcome and every child will receive a free swimming hat, as well as family swim vouchers, so they can continue to enjoy the water for fun.”

Youngsters will be given a free 30-minute swimming lesson every week, starting in September.

All classes will be led by fully-qualified teachers, who will follow National Curriculum requirements for swimming.

Schools can sign up to the scheme until Friday, July 18.

For more information call the Sporting Village, on 01268 722450, or Wickford swimming pool, on 01268 765460.