Summer camps cancelled
Guidance has now been made available for providers but unfortunately this is still very restrictive in terms of operating activity camps and has come too late for us to mobilise camps of our scale within the time frame.
The most difficult aspect for providers is that the guidance stipulates that children must be kept in ‘small consistent groups of no more than 15 children’ and also states that children should be in the same group whenever attending the setting. This means that when children first attend a setting they should be allocated a group and they should then remain in that consistent group for all future sessions. This is not practical for holiday clubs who accept children for differing time frames dependent on parental needs. Some children will attend for a full week, others for individual days and this varies week to week. We accept children from a number of schools and over a variety of days, with these restrictions it is exceptionally difficult to maintain a consistent group for any period of time. What would be a group of 15, in reality with children attending on different days, could mean actually mixing with more like 25-30 children over the course of the week.
Public Health England have made it very clear that they do not want children mixing like this or for there to be a ‘free for all’ mentality with children being allocated to different, non-consistent groups, each time they attend a setting throughout the holidays.
Furthermore, the guidance states that where consistent groups of 15 cannot be maintained then groups must only be outside and with a 1:5 staff ratio (to keep the group to a maximum of 6, as with other social distancing rules).
Sadly, due to these reasons, we will not be changing our decision to close this summer, but will return in the Autumn with our plans for 2021.
Whilst there has been some further relaxation in overall restrictions from the Government, there are still no guidelines available for Out of School providers to reopen this summer. Providers do not know what capacity will be allowed, if ‘bubbles’ will have to be maintained, whether children from different schools can mix, indeed the extent of any measures that will be required to make the environment Covid-secure. A further summary of the situation has been detailed here by Nursery World.
This guidance is likely to be available in the next few weeks, however, for us with staff training, DBS clearances, proper risk assessments and all of the planning we do there is no way we can mobilise our operation in 2-3 weeks. It’s always been a 12-month undertaking and whilst we’ve been hoping and hoping to be there for parents and children, we eventually reached the point where we had to say it couldn’t be done safely. There’s simply too much preparation and planning that goes into our operation to be able to pull everything together in such a short space of time.
For this reason, we had to make the difficult decision not to open this summer. We hope you understand and are able to find some childcare this summer. Our team will return in the Autumn and we will be preparing for a fun and exciting comeback in 2021.
Announcement 15/06/20 - Summer camps cancelled
We are very sad to announce today that we have had to take the decision to cancel the camps this summer. We appreciate our decision will cause disappointment for many children, parents and staff and we want to explain how we came to this conclusion.
We were initially waiting to see if the 1st June school returns would lead to a relaxation of some of the restrictions for children, but it has now been confirmed that some primary years groups won’t be returning before summer. Looking beyond summer, Higher Education establishments are being asked to risk asses their returns, consider a digital/face to face split for teaching and consider how they can control student numbers in any one space. As this is related to autumn returns, we can no longer see how any pre-summer directives for younger children can be sufficiently relaxed from what they are now to allow activity camps.
Currently there aren’t any directives specifically for children’s activities or children’s sports, so we have read and applied all the guidance that’s set out for education and childcare. We’ve explained a few below that are currently required to provide a COVID-secure child environment. We appreciate the country’s opinion is divided on these directives, but as a childcare provider safety remains our highest priority for the children and staff who attend the camps, and therefore the directives must be followed for as long as they are in place.
The Department for Education's current advice for schools is that children returning must remain in 'small consistent groups’ of a maximum of 15 in each bubble and in early years settings (our youngest 4 & 5 year olds) this is reduced to 8 per bubble. This is not possible to maintain in a day camp setting with different children attending each day. Typically a group of 15 each day will actually be made up of 24-28 different children over a week, and many more over a four week period. Allowing each child to be in contact with so many different children is in direct contravention to the guidance and therefore not allowed.
If a child or adult within a bubble tested positive, the whole bubble would need to self-isolate for 14 days or until individuals had a negative test. We believe this would cause immense pressure on families who would then have to arrange full care in the home with no notice.
Last week further guidance was released for out of school clubs, stating that in a bid to keep the bubbles small and consistent, any care provided must only be available for those year groups that are currently at school and only for children of that school. Such restrictions are simply not possible at Barracudas, where children are from various schools and all age groups. The Department for Education also confirmed to the Out of School Alliance that currently summer camps would not be allowed.
There are also restrictions on the sharing of resources, such as the non-sharing of stationery used by children. Whilst there are some resources that could be cleaned at the end of every session, there are many that can’t be washed and the removal of all of these sessions would leave the timetable very basic and not in line with the high quality and varied timetable that Barracudas offers.
Outdoor areas, from which our wonderful schools benefit, are also restricted in terms of each bubble using the same space on every occasion they are outside. This restricts each group to a limited number of areas each day, whilst excluding them from others, such as tennis courts, field space, sports areas and woodland space. We would also need to plan for rain and create separate bubble spaces inside where children are kept 2m apart, as they are when at desks in schools.
Even if this is relaxed to 1m it would not be possible to implement with young children in a play setting. Given that, as well as all of the above, we simply cannot guarantee a COVID-secure environment, and trying to force an operation that would be destined to fail on such a nationally important issue would be irresponsible.
A voluntary study has been launched by the Government to monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 in schools. This will advise future directives and seeks to better understand the rates of transmission in children and adults within schools. This will be of great importance, and we are optimistic that it will make operating camps in the future return to something like normal. However, we cannot unilaterally make that assumption at this time. If the significantly relaxed guidance we are hoping for does materialise it will not be before the summer, which, sadly, will be too late for us.
We hope you understand our decision and can assure you we will be working hard over the autumn and winter period to bring you a bold and exciting timetable for next year and look forward to giving your children such an amazing experience they can’t wait to come back!