The longest year- a reflection

12 months ago our world shrunk as education and care services, workplaces, retail, entertainment venues and leisure facilities all closed their doors. These things which we had taken for granted were no longer available- the seemingly impossible had happened as we were plunged into a long and painful isolation from family and friends. Access to many spaces was also greatly curtailed as we were told to stay at home and stay local.

It was often repeated that we were 'all in the same boat' but this is not true- we may all have been adrift but our boats were not of equal sizes, similarly resourced or in the same states of repair. Many families, individuals, businesses and organisations have struggled to stay afloat and some have sunk, whilst others have managed to navigate the choppy waters. What emergency support there has been available, has hopefully been sufficient to keep most heads above water. However, looking at over 120,000 COVID deaths in the UK, of which over 9,000 occurred in Scotland, we know it has not been enough for some. This week it's important to pause and remember these lives lost and consider how different the world will be without them- communities will be a little duller and darker without these individuals, and the impact on family and friends will be long-lasting.

Although childcare was required to close a year ago, a small number of out of school care services were able to remain open and deliver critical childcare, either independently, or in partnership with their local authority. Despite not knowing what they were truly facing and with little guidance in those initial days, they showed great dedication and determination to not only keep staff and children safe but also provide a caring and fun environment for all.

We created a record of this time in our 'Stories from the Frontline' project - - and looking back at these stories we are proud of how this vital support was delivered at a time of such uncertainty.

With an easing of restrictions in July and a return of schools in August, most out of school care services re-opened but not without some anxiety and much reading (and re-reading) of guidance, negotiation, planning (and re-planning), risk-assessing, risk-assessing and risk-assessing.

Out of school care services have showed incredible professionalism, perseverance and commitment to deliver the best possible experiences and opportunities for children and families despite what has been thrown at you. As the situation has improved or worsened you have adapted and reacted accordingly, and shown great strength and resilience no matter what you have faced- we remain in awe of you all.

The COVID restrictions have curtailed normal practice and although maintaining children in bubbles has caused the biggest headaches, some of you have said that when this works you have seen benefits such as better relationships between children, as well as between staff and children. Daily outdoor play is now a regular feature in most services- even the dark or cold has not dissuaded you from going outside, and many children and staff are discovering that although we cannot stop the weather, play and activity experiences can be adapted accordingly.

It's been a long and difficult year for all of us personally and professionally, and the difficulties are far from over, but we have seen that by coming together and supporting one another we can survive. Where we are going may look different from expectations prior to March 2020 but we have to believe that there will be brighter days.

Stay safe. Stay hopeful.


last updated: 23/03/2021