PUPILS yesterday reaped the rewards of a Sedgefield Borough Council rescue package to save their school swimming pool from closure.

Durham County Council announced it was to close the Shildon and Fishburn pools last year.

The county council had a statutory requirement to provide swimming opportunities for junior school pupils, but it had no responsibility to own and manage swimming pools, so it decided to shut both.

Shildon's pool, which was refurbished in 1996, closed last Easter because of plant failure. The 1960s Fishburn pool suffered a similar fate last summer.

The closures angered the local communities and residents protested against the proposals until Sedgefield Borough Council intervened.

The borough council agreed to take over the running of the pools from the county council, not only to serve the schools but for people living across Sedgefield as well.

Pupils from Shildon Primary School yesterday plunged into action for their first swimming lessons of the year under the new management.

Coun Brian Stephens, leader of Sedgefield Borough Council, and representative of Shildon's Thickley ward, feels the pools are important for enhancing residents' leisure and health.

He and Councillor Terry Ward, lead member for culture and recreation were pool-side to witness first-hand the benefit to the children following the borough council's intervention.

Coun Stephens said: "The whole idea of becoming involved was to give the communities the opportunity to enjoy swimming and their local pools.

"As soon as we heard that Durham County Council was to start a closure programme we quickly agreed we would do all we could for the communities of Shildon and Fishburn. The smiles on the faces of these children prove that we have taken the correct course of action."

Coun Ward said: "We like to think of ourselves as a caring council and seeing all these happy children enjoying their swimming lessons perfectly illustrates what we mean."