FEMALE-ONLY swimming lessons were cancelled at Bulmershe Leisure Centre after complaints from men who were annoyed male-only swimming lessons were not available.

That’s according to Wokingham borough leisure bosses, who were responding to questions about how more young BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) people can get more exercise.

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Stats presented to the council’s children’s services committee showed “80 per cent of children aren’t getting the exercise they need”.

Although figures were not broken down into gender, sex or race, councillors raised concerns about girls from BAME communities getting access to sport and activities.

Cllr Alison Swaddle suggested female-only swimming sessions for Muslim girls, but Beverley Thompson, Wokingham Borough Council’s (WBC) sport and leisure chief, said this had been tried - and then scrapped - before Bulmershe Leisure Centre was knocked down.

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This was because the leisure centre received complaints “from men, saying why don’t we do men-only sessions?”, according to Tony Penge, contract manager for Places Leisure.

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Ms Thompson said the loss of the facility means this provision can not be offered again as “it has to be closed off” and current pools around the borough do not have screening.

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WBC leisure chiefs and Places Leisure bosses are working with schools, offering sessions and camps for children with special educational needs, providing access for children in care and more in order to increase participation levels.

But only one in five children aged 5-16 years old in Wokingham borough are active for 60 minutes a day - the recommended amount - according to data from Sport England.

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Two in five children get less than 30 minutes of exercise per week - the second-worst rate in Berkshire.

Nine 3G games pitches are set to be built across the borough to help with “space” issues for Wokingham's 540 football teams and other groups, but councillor Andy Croy said there needed to be a greater focus on informal play if the daily exercise rate is to go up.

He said: “The thing that strikes me was how badly we are doing, but it’s not just us, it’s a nationwide problem.

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“About 80 per cent of children aren’t getting the exercise they need.

“A lot of the people joining football teams are the most athletic already.

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“There are others who are not as athletically gifted. A lot of exercise will come from informal play.

“As a teacher, one of the most successful things we did for our teenagers and for the girls was to introduce basketball hoops.

“You put them up and straight away every lunchtime you get 20 students playing basketball.”

Wokingham Borough Council’s (WBC) children’s services overview and scrutiny committee met on Tuesday, January 7.