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Sydenham Street Swimming School

From 1962 to today


The pool at Sydenham Street was built in 1962 by Harold Watson, a local Moonee Ponds butcher. Harold was a pioneer of swimming. The pool he built was the first privately owned, indoor, heated Swim School built in Australia. The only other indoor pools in Melbourne in 1962 were the Olympic Pool (now the Lexus Centre), the City Baths, the Richmond Baths, the Brunswick Baths  and the Melbourne University Pool.


Harold established a program teaching swimming to local schools during the day and offering private lessons after school. The local schools would walk to Sydenham once a week throughout the year. Many swimmers have memories of Harold teaching, while standing on the side of he pool, chain-smoking, and using a broomstick to prod his pupils to gain their attention.


In 1984 the school was purchased by Phil and Julie Gavin of P&J Gavin Swimming Schools. P& J Gavin Swimmig Schools was established in 1976 and had taught at various pools around Melbourne including the Pascoe Swim School, the Brunswick Baths, The City Baths and the Essendon Grammar Pool. The Swim School continued teaching school groups and after school lessons as the teaching of pre school children during school hours became a growing focus. By now the teachers were in the water with the students.


In 1994 the decision was made to discontinue teaching school groups. By this time only one local school was still walking. The children were now bussed to the pool. 

The schools had decided to only ask for so called “intensive” swimming programs. They attended for a two week, 10 day, program once a year.  It was very apparent that the only children who were improving on a year to year basis were those who swam regularly outside the school programs. The Swim School decided to scrap such ineffective lessons and concentrate on private lessons, teaching preschool lessons during school hours.


Melbourne was host to the World Aquatic Babies Conference in 1995. Many overseas Swim Schools demonstrated different teaching techniques for babies and preschoolers. Combining many of these ideas led to the development of the innovative preschool program available at Sydenham Street.

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