We can’t wait for our schools to come back! Well, we’re having to…. But in the meantime we’ve been keeping our skills up with a variety of training days.
To be honest, like everyone else, we found lockdown hard. We were grateful to live in such a beautiful place when we were confined to our homes except for our daily exercise. I think we all got to know our own local areas in greater detail as we explored all of the paths accessible from our doorsteps. And once we were allowed to drive within a five-mile radius other opportunities presented themselves. But I don’t think I’m the only one who would say that they missed their colleagues and the buzz of the centre.
So it was great to see everyone when we were allowed to get back together as a team for some socially distanced staff training! The first thing was to work out what we could offer… Could we actually do any of our usual activities whilst maintaining a 2-metre distance from pupils, or each other? It was pretty obvious that some activities would be easy to do safely; canoeing and kayaking, bushcraft, bodyboarding, climbing and abseiling. Others we had to think about a bit more; could we change the way we set up ziplines to allow people to disconnect themselves? We looked at a new venue and worked out a way. Where there’s a will…..
Could we look after people’s safety in a gorge or on the sea cliffs? We thought we’d better give it a go!
It was great to see each other again. And to visit the sea cliffs that we would usually see so regularly but hadn’t seen since last year. I think we probably take much of our area for granted when we see it regularly, apart from when teachers or pupils say “wow – look at that!” But we had things to do! Could sea level traversing happen according to social distancing? So long as we gauged the ability of our groups (always something we are at pains to consider anyway) it would be ideal as pupils have to avoid crowding onto the same bit of rope on a clip line. But what about coasteering? There was only one way to find out so off we went!
We quickly realised that we normally do a lot of ‘spotting’, which entails protecting people from falls by being in close proximity. Problematic! But then we discovered that a short length of rope could be used in a variety of ways to provide safety instead. So, a bit of practice with Holly rescuing me and Gaz rescuing Ben, Paul and Rod and others giving it a go and we felt that not only could we take groups coasteering again but would also be able to able to use the same techniques in the gorge!
Over the summer holidays lots of people seemed to opt for staycations, so there have been family groups to take out. It was been interesting to see how the soft skills we use to get the most out of groups of pupils transfer to family units with their own social dynamics. If anyone needs relationship counselling or marriage guidance I’m available!
But now we wait. As the weeks slip by and we think…. no Blessed Edwards, no St James or Callowend, no Rydal or Great Witley (and the rest)… we realise how much we miss seeing the familiar faces of the staff and the challenge of inspiring a new group of pupils.
So we’ll have to keep plugging away with our campaign to #saveoutdoored and keep our skills up with regular get-togethers to share our skills. We’ve been coasteering and kayaking and sea level traversing. And it’s great to see each other. But I miss my job, and can’t wait for schools to come back!
Dave Barnard, Teacher & Senior Instructor