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Considerations & Implications For PE Educators During The Coronavirus Crisis.

The Coronavirus crisis is changing the way that educators will work and interact with their pupil across the world for the foreseeable future.

In this blog we take a look at the implications and considerations that the PEAK team will have to take into account on a daily basis when working with children in schools and we discuss our thoughts on what the new ‘normal’ might look like in our industry whilst the threat of COVID-19 remains.

As most countries in Europe look to have navigated the first peak in the Coronavirus crisis, the outlook has started to switch and begin to focus on how to get employees back to work and children back to school in the safest way possible whilst mitigating the risk of a second wave as Boris Johnson announced plans to partially open primary schools, potentially as early as 1st June in the UK.

For many PE providers like ourselves this could signal a return to working in the school environment in the near future, bringing with it enormous challenges and issues that will need to be identified, addressed and discussed promptly with the relevant governing bodies to ensure a that a safe and appropriate transition can occur.

What Support May Schools Want & Need?

The first considerations that will need to be taken into account is the impact of the lockdown on children and what support children may want and need when they do finally return to school. Experts are becoming increasingly worried about the many implications of months of lockdown for children and the effects this may have on their wellbeing, health and futures.

When some school’s reopen in June, most children will have lost nearly four months of education, whilst their experiences regarding continued learning from home will vary considerably from household to household. Many children will be out of tune with learning and the process of returning to formal learning will be a very gradual one.

From a PE perspective it will be vital even more so than ever, that pupils see physical education as a fun release from being ‘stuck inside’ with a greater emphasis on play and enjoyment as opposed to complex activities with multiple learning focuses.

Another important implication to be aware of will be the differing levels of physical activity within individuals. As for some children taking part in any kind of physical activity, especially those that are the most inactive, will be tough going and a big change in what they have been used to during lockdown. Also at the other end of the spectrum there will be children who have been more active than ever and had the opportunity to participate in activity with their families, therefore finding a balance in our expectations and providing differentiation within the activities that we plan and deliver will be of paramount importance when school PE lessons resume.

Managing the duration and also the intensity levels of sessions, particularly when you consider that activities may be more individual than team based moving forwards, will be important to ensure that we set the challenge at a suitable levels for individuals.

The mental health implications of the pandemic are unprecedented. In England alone over 350,000 children currently access specialist mental health services each year, many of which have been significantly reduced due to the restrictions in place across the country. Add that to the fact that the Coronavirus pandemic will have affected every child in some perspective whether that be dealing with the death of a relative, disruption to routine, loneliness or anxiety bought on by the virus just highlights the fact of how big an issue this will be moving forwards.

For educators returning to school’s being that enthusiastic, positive and upbeat face is potentially going to make the world of difference to that child and allow them to if even for a brief moment improve their mood, lift their spirit and help them to deal with any stresses or anxiety’s they may have. As we become more knowledgeable about the disease in terms of the role children can play in its spread then the removal of social distancing measures to enable children to play and communicate with their peers will be a massive step forwards in terms of making a positive different to their mental health.

It is also vitally important that we make use of the technology available to us to find innovative ways to continue to communicate and interact with the children that they work as regularly as possible to combat the loneliness that children may be suffering with in silence. Through the power of social media, I have witnessed some fantastic examples of PE video sessions and producing content that gives their children an opportunity to socialise, be physically active and keep in touch at a time when this is most needed especially the teaching of skills through the PEAK Team challenge videos we have been posting daily. Depending on what happens over the coming months tapping into platforms such as YouTube that most children are now already familiar with is and engaging online is going to continue to be a great way of maintain a connection and can also be used to encourage routine activity from afar.

Physical Education Teaching Implications

In addition to the issues discussed above, the PEAK team will also contend with the social distancing restrictions in place to deliver appropriate and safe activities for children, meaning the ability to be innovative is fast becoming a key component of the educators toolbox. Below are some thoughts on some key trends that we think we form an important part of our planning and organisation for the weeks and months to come.

The first and most important aspect of PE delivery will be to limit the risk to the participants and teaching staff. Activities that would have been a part of normality such as tag games, the passing of equipment from one child to another, close group discussion tasks or collective drinks breaks will obviously not meet safety guidelines and will have to be carefully planned and assessed to reduce any potential risks to those involved. Practises will have to be designed in a way that maintains social distancing with clear instructions, guidelines and playing area marking for children to adhere to at all times, whilst trying to keep sessions as fun as possible – a challenge in itself. Individual sports and activities such as athletics, yoga, golf, dance and fitness are much easier to break down into games or circuits that can adhere to social distancing whereas team sports such as football, rugby and basketball will be much more of a challenge for staff to deliver appropriately.

Children’s expectations of a normal PE lesson will have to change at least for the short term which will provide a degree of difficulty for educators to manage. Ask any school staff and one of the most often heard questions of ‘When can we play a game’ is never too far from a child’s mind, however, the restrictions make team games and activities almost impossible to carry out safely. Moving forwards it’s likely that lessons will have to switch in focus to incorporate more individual-based practises and technical challenges, as opposed to team-based, practises with high game realism.

-With the school day looking increasingly likely to be split into smaller segments to allow schools to adhere to social distancing measures, there is a chance that time for PE to take place will decrease, particularly at schools that possess limited sports facilities and spaces to play safely. This could be catastrophic especially when you consider that currently, a number of schools are finding it difficult to plan for the next academic year, not knowing if their sports funding will be affected. It would be wise therefore for staff to consider planning their future school sessions with the view of working with and delivering to much fewer participants per class. A good idea for schools moving forward on PE days would be for the pupils to come to school dressed in their PE kit to avoid changing on-site prior to their session where possible and therefore increasing the activity time. Between classes, equipment will have to be thoroughly cleaned ready for use by the next group which will again impact on time available for sport, another challenge that will need to be addressed by staff.

It will be interesting to see the changes implemented across the sports industry in the coming weeks and months and how this might affect children’s participation in sporting activities for the foreseeable future as we move beyond the crisis and into hopefully a better world.

Stay safe! The PEAK Team.

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