Steve Franks, the CEO of UK-based swim lesson group Water Babies, has died as a result of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The news was first reported via a Tweet from Swim England CEO Jane Nickerson.
Very sad day today. Good friend has lost the Coronavirus fight. RIP Steve Franks of @WaterBabies . Your work for baby swimming will live on. I will miss our lunches and catch ups. Definitely a friend as well as a @Swim_England colleague.
— Jane Nickerson (@JMNSwimmer) April 30, 2020
Franks was the Group CEO and managing director of Water Babies, a role he’s held since 2009. The chain of swim schools geared toward the youngest swimmers, specializing in lessons from newborns to four-and-a-half years old, has 76 franchised locations across Canada, China, Ireland, The Netherlands, and the UK. The organization boasts teaching lessons to around 52,000 babies a week, and is the largest swim school franchise in the United Kingdom.
Franks also served as the lead spokesperson for the Children First movement in the UK and a member of the ukactive Kids Council. Both organizations work to develop government policy promoting an active lifestyle for children.
Franks won a number of awards in his time leading Water Babies, and was the technical author of a UK nationwide guidelines document known as the British Standards Institute Code of Practice regarding best practices and guidelines for teaching babies to swim. The PAS 520:2017 outlines best practice for swim schools, swimming teachers, leisure operators, underwater photographers and carers of children aged 0 to 4.
Alison Ogden, the director of a Water Babies franchise in Liverpool, posted this Facebook post today, including words from one of the last emails he sent to the Water Babies team as the coronavirus pandemic unfurled.
The United Kingdom has 172,481 confirmed cases of coronavirus, fourth most in the world, and 26,771 deaths, third-most in the world. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday that the country was “past the peak of this disease.”