A SWIMMING teacher and her staff will be able to teach deaf children more effectively after receiving funding to complete a British Sign Language course.

Aquabelle Swim School, currently teach around eight deaf babies and toddlers and communicate with them through the children’s parents who often swim with them.

Valerie Carnaby, 73, owns the private swimming pool in Billericay where she lives.

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Inspired - Mel Carnaby

It was initially built for the family, until her daughter, Mel Carnaby, 47, from Wickford, was inspired to turn the it into a commercial pool and later started running Aquabelle Swim School.

The council initially tried to close the pool down but the Carnabys won an appeal and now teach 900 children a week.

Mel, who runs the school with her business partner, Dawn Laverty, 52, from Wickford, said: “Dawn used to hire the pool to teach juniors after school. I was a stay-at-home mum so I decided to go on a course to become a swimming teacher.

“I then teamed up with Dawn to start Aquabelle. I just fell in love with it, it’s such a passion of mine now and we care about every single client we have.

“We know all the mums and their children so well and we have a great relationship with them.”

The pool is now one of the biggest independent pools in Essex and has been a runner-up for the last five years running in the Essex Mums awards, as well being accredited by the Swimming Teachers Association.

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Aquabelle also offer three scholarships each term for the most improved swimmer, who then gets the following term free of charge.

Mel added: “We have several deaf children in the classes and it was quite hard for our teachers to communicate with them without knowing sign language, so when Co-op sponsored us to send our teachers on a sign language course we were thrilled.

“It will enable the progression of baby swimming to the next stage where they go in without their parents, and allow them to communicate while in the water without the parents.

“We will offer bespoke swimming packages with the British Sign Language Society which will allow more deaf children to swim.”

Yvonne Green, whose deaf daughter currently attends Aquabelle, said: “I am a deaf mother to three children, my son is hearing and my two daughters are deaf. My husband Richard is also deaf and we communicate using British Sign Language.

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“When my daughter Lily-Rose was four months old I started to take her swimming – the teacher was fantastic and tried her best to communicate with me.

Then my third child, Ruby Louise, was born, I continued to take her to Aquabelle Swim School as Lily Rose had swam there so I knew they already had some deaf awareness.

“I have always loved to swim but I worried about the safety of my children in public swimming pools as they can’t hear if there is a problem.

"I want my children to feel safe and confident in the water, plus know that they can communicate with their teacher.

“When Lily-Rose was two and a half, the teacher said to me that she was ready to swim on her own without me. The group was small and I would sit at the side and watch.

“Lily-Rose tried to follow the teacher’s instructions and she did okay, but would sometimes look at me to check that she had understood correctly.

“When Aquabelle told me about the funding that the Co-op had donated to allow the teachers to be taught basic BSL I was so happy.

“This will enable not only my children, but other deaf children to come for swimming lessons and be taught using their own language, without any barriers.

“Aquabelle have been so supportive to my family and with this generous donation have already arranged for an ongoing bespoke package to be delivered to their teachers by Paula Parker.

“I appreciate their kind gesture so much and can not thank them enough.”

Yvonne’s daughter, Lily-Rose, was the most recent winner of the Aquabelle scholarship.

For more information on Aquabelle, visit aquabelleswimschool.co.uk