Segregation row at Stoke Newington swimming pool

Children from a Hackney swimming club have been advised to leave their local pool via a fire exit so they are kept “segregated” from members of a Jewish group.

The Clissold Swimming Club (CSC) uses the main pool at the Clissold Leisure Centre in Stoke Newington every Sunday evening until 6pm.

The North London Jewish Youth Club (NLJYC) has paid the centre’s managers GLL for exclusive use of the centre from 6pm, but the two groups overlap during entry and exit.

Now the Clissold Swimming Club has written to its members telling them it is “essential” for the two groups to be kept separate.

The letter stated: “As the CSC swimmers will only leave the main pool at 6pm it is essential that they and their parents in the gallery are segregated from the NLJYC members… The last of the CSC swimmers will leave the main pool at 6pm and proceed directly to the changing rooms where they will shower and dress promptly. To ensure segregation from the NLJYC, CSC will station a responsible adult in each changing room to direct the swimmers away from the exit to the foyer. When the swimmers leave it will be through the fire exit adjacent to the swimmers’ entry point to the main pool.”

Molly Mulready-Jones, whose son is a member of the Clissold Swimming Club, said she was shocked by the protocol. She said: “I’ve always been really pleased to be raising my kids in Hackney as the community prides itself on being comprised of so many different cultures living happily together, but now my child has to leave his local swimming pool via the fire exit in order not to breach a segregation policy. It makes me feel sad that we can’t all just rub along a bit better than this.”

She added that other parents had also been surprised by the use of the term “segregation” in the letter.

North London Jewish Youth Club manager Mark Grosskopf said the protocol had been put in place to prevent girls wearing swimming gear from mixing with boys – something that is forbidden among orthodox Jews.

He added that the NLJYC had paid three times the normal price to hire the pool on a Sunday night so as to have exclusive use of it and had even booked it from 5.30pm and forfeited their first half hour of swimming to avoid any overlap with others.

He said: “If it wasn’t for us, the centre would have closed at 5pm. We give up our first half hour of swimming to accommodate them. I can see where they are coming from because they think, why should we use a different exit, but perhaps these are new parents who do not have all the information and are not aware that we did them a favour.”

He added that he thought the letter could perhaps have been better worded so as to explain that it was a problem for his group to have girl swimmers walking past boys from the North London Jewish Youth Club. However, he said he did not blame whoever had drafted it.

The Clissold Swimming Club did not respond to an email request for a statement.

A spokeswoman for GLL said: “In order to effectively manage the changeover between the two swimming sessions an entrance and exit protocol was agreed by both swimming clubs and GLL. This has worked successfully for the past two years and all parties remain happy with what has been put in place.”