The re-introduction of yoga in schools post Covid-19 closures
The academic year is soon to begin in Scottish schools and across the UK.
The schools have been closed since the middle of March because of Covid-19. School Closures have impacted the children in many ways:
- Deprived them of half the academic year.
- Magnified existing education inequalities.
- Put children at risk beyond that associated with covid 19 transmission:
- Children rely on peer interactions to meet their educational and developmental needs
- Affected their mental health.
- Deprived special children of the regular interaction and routines schools offer.
- Put kids at risk of domestic abuse.
All these were most “felt” by children in secondary schools and those already living in deprived socioeconomic settings.
Because of these, there is a major drive for schools to go back in August & September in the UK.
Getting back to schools relies heavily on disease low incident, low prevalence and low transmission levels; which in non scientific term means that there is no active community spread in the area you intend to operate.
Once back, schools must comply with country wide risk assessments and mitigating measure in place to control the spread of the virus. This means a few things:
1. As close as possible to ZERO tolerance of Covid symptoms: pupils must not attend schools if they or their families display any COVID-19 symptoms as defined by World Health organisation and the local government.
2. Compliance with test-track-and-trace system in place.
In schools this means a few things:
– Working in consistent groups
– No / Minimum mixing of the groups, which in turn means 1 way systems to be put in place, staggered arrival and departure times or using multiple exits and entry points to the school
– Adults working in schools and parents must continue to social distance.
– Minimum or no electives and mixed group subjects
– Minimum / no external support staff, councillors, contractor’s
– No parents or visitors.
3. Increased cleaning and personal hygiene across the schools.
– In order to enable that there will be more hand sanitising & washing stations across the schools.
– Increased cleaning routines across the schools.
– Minimalist setting across the schools to enable effective cleaning on a daily basis.
– No sharing of equipment where practically possible.
There are many grey areas in the way the schools will operate when they reopen and those grey areas include: social distancing of children, social distancing of staff from children, the use of masks and they re-introduction of peripatetic staff across the school, PE lessons and extracurricular activities.
A risk assessment is therefore essential for the re-introduction of yoga in the schools.
Risk Assessing Yoga
With the wellbeing of the children potentially affected by the closures, yoga has an essential role to play in the schools now more than ever.
Yoga can address physical inactivity, mental and social health, allow for the children to shift mindset and grow in courage and resilience through this pandemic. Yoga may allow children to reconnect with their body, breath and of course with each other.
Benefits aside though…
… and Covid-19 still present and still the big overarching hazard, what considerations yoga teachers need o make to return into school?
How can they operate in a safe and practical manner that mitigates the risk of infection spreading across the school or the community?
How can they remain compliant with government guidance?
In this ever changing landscape Covid 19 creates many professional bodies, such as Sport Scotland, have tried to work with the government to create guidance on the safe return of sport and activities in venues and schools. Variations exist and it is important for each coach and yoga teacher to:
– Let common sense prevail
– Keep up-to-date with guidance on a national and local level (variations will exist between councils also).
– Learn about their liabilities and responsibilities in relation to COVID-19 and risk of transmission due to their work.
– Work closely with the schools and adhere with their mitigating measures to minimise the disease spread.
– Make up own Risk assessment in order to address the work carried out and associated hazards and mitigating measures to protect yourself and others (it is your legal responsibility).
– As more information emerges be prepared to adapt and remain flexible.
– Work on your mindset and do not allow fear and anxiety to stop your continuous effort to provide opportunities for the children to learn, have fun and benefit from the practice of yoga.
– Adapt the way you teach and consider Classroom based yoga or virtual delivery.