With an aim to make elite swimming more accessible through extra funding and bespoke co-curricular education, the collaboration will strengthen Bristol’s reputation as a swimming hub for young athletes.

The Bristol Sport Swim Scholarship will be awarded to young athletes, giving them the opportunity to marry elite, national-level coaching and first-class schooling.

Bristol Sport Communications Director Lisa Knights said: “We’re delighted to announce this innovative partnership with Clifton High. Bristol Sport’s goal is to put the city on the international sporting map and to help inspire sport in Bristol.

“Following an approach from Clifton High to develop a swimming pathway to enable young, talented swimmers to remain in the city and combine it with their education, we have agreed to help support and promote the sport with this collaboration. 

“Bristol has a long history of national and international success in aquatics, most recently with Clifton High’s Issy Thorpe and Kate Shortman representing Team GB at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. We hope that by continuing our ethos of being “the team behind the team” we can promote and inspire the next generation of swimmers to proudly represent the city.”

The first recipient of the swim scholarship programme is Sean Simmons who joins Clifton High in Year 12 from St. Bede’s Catholic College, Lawrence Weston. Sean is regularly in the top 10 of UK rankings for 50-metre backstroke, 50-metre fly, 100-metre backstroke and 100-metre fly; Sean learnt to swim at the age of six and has been excelling in the sport ever since.

The scholarship is launched alongside a new Complete Swimmer Programme at Clifton High School, a three-step initiative for children from Reception to Year 13 which aims to progressively nurture all Clifton High pupils, from early stages, to swimming enthusiasts and athletes throughout the duration of their time at school. The programme is divided into three sections, each covering a key period of long-term athlete development, accessible for all levels of ability, and a carefully timetabled provision for elite athletes. 

Left to right: Matthew Bennett –CHS Head of School, James Taylor – CHS, Director of Sport, Sean Simmons – Bristol Sport Swim Scholarship recipient, Jez Birds – CHS Director of Swimming.

To lead the programme, Clifton High has appointed Jez Birds as the School’s new Director of Swimming. Birds, is a former professional Team GB swimmer and joins Clifton High from Henleaze Swimming Club – where he ran their swim programme for almost 10 years. A swim England Coach Tutor and Level 4 Strength and Conditioning Coach, Jez’s passion lies in developing athletes of all ages and abilities; from learning to swim through to National Champions.

Speaking of the new programme Birds commented: “Starting from as young as four years of age, children will learn the fundamental technical skills in preparation for competitive racing; the programme ensures that all participants are one step ahead of the national governmental guidelines for swimming.”

“Progressing through the school years up to the Elite Adaptations stage, those who have developed into selected athletes will benefit from national level coaching, strength and conditioning, nutrition and athlete mentoring utilising periods during the school day to bolster their access to coach sessions.

“The wrap-around co-curricular programme aims to allow participants to be a student athlete, with access to national level coaching as well as outstanding education, rather than juggling being a student and an athlete separately.

“This is a really exciting time to be swimming at Clifton High. We are full of post-Olympic fever and have an amazing opportunity to build on the success of Izzy Thorpe and Kate Shortman who have set the bar very high at CHS in terms of elite level achievement. With the links and support offered to this programme, and the cohort of athletes ready to go in September, we are very much looking forward to emulating their success and developing the next batch of Clifton High Olympians.”