Covid-secure Kids Week success at Pennine SC

Pennine Sailing Club in South Yorkshire shares its experience of providing activities for children during the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020.
01 Sep 20

More than 20 children were able to enjoy sailing and splashing around during Kids Week at Pennine SC after the club amended its usual format to provide a Covid-secure environment.

With children stuck at home and unable to play together following lockdown in mid-March, the club was determined to run its Kids Week to provide a much needed opportunity for its young members to enjoy some summer fun and see their friends.

A team comprising Pennine SC’s Kids Captain, Catering and Welfare officers, alongside input from other committee members, worked through government guidance to create the necessary risk assessments to enable the week to go ahead.

Safeguarding Officer Emily Tredoux, who led the Kids Week programme, says: “My son is 10 and likes sailing and he hadn’t been to school since March 23rd and is an only child - Kids Week was an opportunity to do something where he could be with other kids, even if they did have to be socially distanced.

“From my perspective, there was a lot of research and understanding of rules that went into making the week happen, and there was a huge amount of effort by the committee on the risk assessment for the club, in particular by our commodore and vice commodore. But it was definitely worth it. For a lot of the children, it was the first time they were able to see other kids and have something for them: they’d got so used to things being shut on them. I asked a few of the kids if they’d enjoyed it at the end of the week and got pretty much a resounding ‘yes!’.

“It was a case of treating it like a school: running the week with bubbles and keeping the bubbles as separate as possible. It was amazing to see how well the kids responded. I was very proud of them. Some even managed to gain certificates, including Stage 2 and 3 and Start Racing. The club has picked up a couple of events since and doing Kids Week has given our committee a lot more confidence that we can do things.”  

Children on shore in 'bubbles' at Pennine SC Kids Week, credit Tom Oldrini
All pictures credit Tom Oldrini

Making Kids Week Covid Secure

Pennine SC’s Kids Week had 23 children taking part with 15 adults in total helping out. As the Safeguarding Officer, Emily was one of two adults able to move between the bubbles to help anyone, carrying sanitiser and a mask at all times and being ultra cautious between the groups. One child, aged 16, whose family had been shielding, was able to join in, bringing his own lunch and having separate hot food, his own space and 2m social distancing from everyone.

Sources of information: Those used by Pennine SC included Government advice for holiday and after-school clubs and schools and child care settings; the National Youth Agency (NYA) and the World Health Authority There is also information available via the RYA Return to Boating hub  including guidance for running events and for resuming training activities.

Singlehanded: All children had to be able to sail singlehanded this year to keep adult/child close contact interactions to a minimum. Numbers were kept deliberately low due to indoor space area: usually there would be 30+ kids.

Bubbles: Kids Week was run like a school, with 4 bubbles of children in school-age groups that were kept apart. Each bubble could have up to 15 people: the maximum was 12 for the younger kids (8 kids, 3 instructors, 1 safety crew, utilising 2 RIBS). Each bubble had its own areas: for eating (older ones chose to eat outside in a large socially distanced circle); for rigging and de-rigging; and for beaching during break times.

Social distancing: For primary school age kids there was no social distancing within their bubble but instructors maintained 1m from the children and each other as much as possible and had masks if required; for secondary school age kids’ bubbles there was a 1m+ rule from each other. Bubbles were kept at least 2m apart but were usually much further than this. Each team member was expected to help their teammates only: no cross-bubble helping.

Exceptions: For short periods of less than 15 minutes, attendees and volunteers were allowed to within less than 1m to help teammates, for example with rigging and pulling boats up the slipway, with children over primary age asked to bring a mask to further mitigate any risk.

Access to slipway: This pinch point was controlled by staggered breaks/lunch and the fact that older ones are naturally first ready and last off the water.

Club house: Everyone had to hand sanitise before entering the clubhouse, with adults on standby at the doors chanting the mantra ‘squidge, squidge, squidge!’ to help younger children comply. Each person was given a named space and chair at their team table; this space was theirs’ all week. Both wet indoor and dry indoor areas were utilised for the bubbles, with 2 in each area, and this also gave 2 entrances to help separate bubbles further.

Catering: Food/snacks were put on the tables. Whilst as much food was plated up individually , some foods were 'shared' e.g. at breakfast there were 2 boxes of cereal for each team, jugs of water/squash.  Evening hot meal was served to each bubble by the same individual all week, e.g. welfare officer served 2 bubbles, sanitising between the bubbles. Long tables had a socially distanced zig-zag seating plan to give children as much space as possible and ensure they were not directly opposite each other.

Toilets: Cleaned down regularly four or five times a day, including the start, after breakfast, lunch and both snack times. Door handles throughout the club were likewise regularly cleaned.

Changing: All kids arrived in their wetsuit in the mornings.  Adults were given named pegs/spaces on one side of the changing rooms, and provided with sanitising wipes.  Whilst pegs were 1m apart, they were to only get changed if no one was either side of them - this allowed a 2m space.  No bags/items were allowed to be left in the changing rooms; kit bags were kept at tables between chairs or in cars, though as the primary bubble changed first at the end of day, their kit was put straight into the changing rooms.

At the end of the day, the children were allowed through bubble by bubble to get changed, with only the primary kids not worrying about social distancing, particularly as they had to help each other take their kit off.  The changing rooms were cleaned/sanitised after each bubble was changed, with the oldest bubble sanitising their spots themselves. Adults changed with their bubble but only if 2 could go in together and otherwise waited until after all bubbles were changed.

Children having fun splashing around at Pennine SC Kids Week, credit Tom OldriniOther Considerations:  

  • Club kit: The club opened its kit box on Monday morning for kids to get any equipment they required (helmets, buoyancy, etc ). They then kept this equipment and took it home for the rest of the week. Most already had their own kit.
  • Volunteers: Adults helping out were the same adults all week, catering, cleaning/sanitising, bosun, kids captain, welfare officer, instructors and safety crew. Kids captain and welfare officer able to help out with safety, sanitising or kitchen duties as required. All adults given a bottle of sanitiser which they were to use often.
  • Parents: The only negative feedback was from parents who wanted to come too! Parents would usually meet up at the club to enjoy the week on shore but in order to keep numbers down and support social distancing, they were asked to stay away for 2020. Parents and all other club members were not allowed past the car park until after 6:15pm, by which time the kids going home were collected, while older ones staying on for evening sailing had the club 2m social distancing rule.
  • RIBS: These were allocated to bubbles by the bosun and remained with the bubble all week; for both safety and safeguarding the aim was 2 adults per RIB, with 1m social distancing on each RIB.

Two older children sailing Lasers at Pennine SC Kids Week, credit Tom Oldrini
Triumph in a year of loss

The week’s youngest instructor Millie Heeley, aged 18, wrote a report about the week published on Yachts & Yachting - read all about it here, with photographs taken by another young member Tom Oldrini, aged 15. Millie describes how thanks to all the volunteers and instructors, Kids Week was a “triumph in a year of loss”.

As she explains in her report: “Alongside social distancing regulations, Kids Week 2020 had to provide a fun release after the months of lockdown endured by both the kids and parents. This meant a sense of normality had to be found in the most abnormal of times. With this in mind, Kids Week was revamped 2020 style to include social bubbles and sanitation but also the old favourites of swimming, surfboard races and, of course, capsize practice.”

Feedback from the children shows just how much fun the week proved to be:

“This year I wasn't sure how Kids Week would be and we had to follow the rules because of Covid but that didn't stop it being lots of fun and getting to spend time with my friends. I learnt lots of racing strategies and it was great to be able to sail a lot again." Benjamin Greaves, aged 12.

"I really enjoy Kids Week every year but this year I was apprehensive about how it was going to work because of Covid. However I was pleasantly surprised as I learnt a lot but also had lots of fun. The instructors and volunteers worked hard to make it a great experience and kept us all safe." Sorcha Greaves, aged 15.

“This year Kids Week was very different because of Covid but it didn’t stop us. It was amazing. This year I moved up a boat to a Topper as well, it was brilliant. We got told the rules and had to stick to them it was great to be able to socialise with people as we couldn’t because of the virus and I’ve learnt how to race and everything. And we still got to be able to have fun.” Eva George, aged 12.

“Kids Week is lots of fun, I’ve done it a few times now and have made lots of great friends. This year was quite different because of Covid but the leaders were really great and told us the rules. To be honest, we just got in with it and it didn’t stop us having fun. This year at Kids Week I moved on to a Topper and started racing. It made my summer, in fact it made my year! Thank you to everyone who made it happen!” Joe Dunkley, aged 11.

Social distanced older children on shore at Pennine SC, credit Tom Oldrini