We can’t quite believe it’s been almost 12 months since the sudden announcement that the UK was to be placed into lockdown due to a new virus sweeping across the world.
Most activity providers prepared for a few weeks of closure and at worse a few months understanding the need to try to fight the pandemic as a nation together. Few predicted at that time we’d still be facing enforced closure and similar challenges a year on.
It’s safe to say it’s been an arduous year for the children’s activities sector and providers across the UK.
Governmental U-turns, tiering systems, devolved nation disagreements, unclear and often conflicting guidelines not fit for our industry, home-schooling demands, lack of financial support for many, Brexit, Black Lives Matter and an urgent need to maintain some income and semblance of routine for ourselves and our customers. Of course, the pandemic will have impacted the health of some of you and your family too.
The mental strain is palpable.
However, in that time we’ve seen the sector unite. Collaborations, new friendships, strengthened franchise networks, new business models created, new ideas started and generally working together to survive. Dare we say, ICAP may not have even been created and we think that would have been a shame.
The success of the vaccine programme has been a beacon of hope. While not all UK nations have been clear on the next steps, for those in England the roadmap has been generally well received and our sector is ready to go again. Optimism is growing day by day and week by week that there are no more major bumps in the road.
Many of you may have operated online throughout the year and had success. We’re incredibly excited to see the hybrid business models and service offerings that will continue beyond Covid-19. This said, we know the majority will be keen to return both inside and outside as soon as possible and early demand shows families up and down the country will be desperate to get children back into activities.
We cannot remember a time where our sector was so clearly needed in local communities.
TES pointed out recently that parents are more concerned right now about their child’s wellbeing over their educational achievements. Of course both areas are essential to child development and this only highlights the critical importance of children’s activity services regardless of your niche or offering.
If we put business survival aside (and we don’t say that lightly) the needs of children absolutely have to be a key focus for society moving forward and the great news you already know is, your services and programmes have been, and will continue to be, a key part of that. Activity providers should celebrate the difference they all continue to make every single day for the families they support.
We wanted to celebrate and show our support for children’s activity providers and as part of World Poetry Day this Sunday we put some creative words together (be kind, we’re a work in progress)…
One fateful evening, when we were told to promptly lockdown,
Boris’ announcement was met with a collective sector frown.
Providers re-grouped, adapted and pivoted online,
A sector united, things were going to be just fine.
Days turned to weeks, then turned to months,
Was it too much to ask for clear guidelines for once?
Terms not fitting and the great support group debate,
A sector under strain, what division this might create?
Lockdown one, lockdown two, lockdown three,
Stay at home, for us it’s online only you see.
A vaccine, a roadmap, time to go again,
Our sector is ready, resolve shall remain.
Providers educate, entertain and inspire,
So be brave, be bold and set the world on fire.
A tough year, with many losing much financial wealth,
Let’s come back stronger, to support children’s physical & mental health.
With challenge comes opportunity, we shall not forget,
Children need us now, good examples we must set.
We look forward to seeing you all return stronger and wiser over the coming months. Best of luck!