It's four weeks since the announcement that primary schools were to bring back Reception, Yr 1 and Yr 6 on 1st June. Having worked with schools for nearly ten years, I was alarmed and fearful for heads and teachers, given so little time to plan, with constantly changing guidelines and regulations. I knew they'd pull it out of the bag, because schools are incredibly resourceful, but we all know there have been many hands wrung and sleepless nights over this.
12 weeks ago, when schools suddenly closed, just before lockdown was announced, Leaps & Strides immediately lost our client base. Schools shut for all but key workers' children. Teachers and pupils (and parents) all over the country had to cope with being launched into remote learning. Heads were thrown into managing their schools in an entirely new way, overnight. It was phenomenal. I was torn between the fear we all feel for our families and friends, the anguish of losing my business after years of growth, and an overwhelming frustration that Leaps & Strides had so much to offer, but no place in the current climate.
Back to now, I'm incredibly proud to say Leaps & Strides Are Back, doing what we do best. In those four weeks since the primary school announcement, we have worked tirelessly to produce a range of fantastic products to help schools with communicating 2m distancing to children. Simple, right? Well, it's interesting, every single adult I have asked to show me how far 2 metres is, has stepped to or sat at about half that distance, max. Because 2 metres is far. Even though we see the dots on the floor outside the supermarket and lines in queues. It's hard to remember when you're with your friends in the garden. We live in a culture where we are used to being close to other people. In 'normal life' we get around this by pretending that we are in our own little bubble, on the tube, at a bar, in a shop. And sitting next to friends or partners or parents? I reckon about 20cm is about average on a sofa, if you like them.
So teaching children to socially distance is huge. 2m distance feels even bigger to them and is easy to forget. We need to protect children, absolutely, but there's a delicate balance between protection and scaring them for life: stay away from everybody, back off, all germs are dangerous, don't go near your friend or you could get sick. It's hard for adults. It's harder for the kids. So, we set about working out how to help children to learn about 2 metres without it being scary. Who stands back and looks at things? Explorers do. And where? Well, the Rainforest and the Ocean are good places to start. And our beloved British Wildlife swiftly followed. Show a child a Dolphin or a Giant Anteater or a Red Deer. Show them that they are 2 metres long. Wow. Tell them something amazing about our wonderful wildlife. They will remember better than you.
Our Explorer Wall Stickers and Outdoor Banners are actually 2 metres long. In real life. Not an A4 poster with arrows saying stay 2m away from people, on a playground gate. That's not very helpful if you are 5 (or 50) years old and don't know what 2m really feels like. We know what children love to learn about. It's our thing. Did you know that a Red-eyed Tree Frog can jump twenty times its own length? Did you know that Pufferfish have four teeth, which they use to open shells? An idea that inspires a child's curiosity is more visually memorable than hazard tape and way less scary. And for adults, it's very useful for when you're writing that Friday night Zoom quiz...