ENVi: A special interest group for school and community engagement professionals working in Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums in Victoria, Australia.

community of practice, COVID-19, education, reNEWed, reports, survey

School Program Planning in a Covid Safe Environment

ENVi has returned this year with the first of our 2021 reNEWed programming Hands off engagement. Below is the video of the presentations and conversation, then an explanation of our survey results by Stephanie Rosestone.

Survey results

ENVi distributed a survey to the GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) education community in late January 2021 to gather information on how different organisations are delivering onsite school programs. 

Many organisations suspended all of their onsite programs during 2020 and as restrictions have eased in 2021 and the commencement of a new school year, whereby excursions are possible again. We also observed that we were left without clear advice for meeting school groups specific requirements. Directives provided by the Victorian Government to ensure Covid Safe operations didn’t quite answer all of the questions we had and we started to observe—between ourselves—some unique interpretations to the logistics of welcoming this important cohort of visitors to our spaces. As organisations looked to education staff for clarity it became clear that a range of issues remained. These included density quotients, staff and visitor safety—particularly in relation to social distancing (when students don’t) and changing mask wearing advice), increased cleaning and sanitisation routines, limitations to hands on activities, which is an important part of our pedagogical practice, all balanced with the expectations of teachers, students and school communities. 

This survey aimed to uncover how different organisations were approaching these issues. This was vital to us developing a best practice responses to this new problem. 14 responses were collected, and respondents were de-identified. Results demonstrated to us the deep impact of Covid on our capacity and a need to rethink our induction and teaching strategies that ensure our learning environments continue to provide profound and memorable experiences for our learners.

  • 13 of the 14 respondents confirmed they will be offering facilitated onsite programs in Term 1
  • 10 of the 14 are planning term by term basis
  • 43% are not planning to return to normal program delivery for the foreseeable future, or, have made permanent changes to their programming

Respondents stated their organisations were introducing a range of new safety measures. Many of these impacted procedures relating to receiving bookings, welcoming groups and then the reevaluation of pedagogical approaches utilised in the engagement of school groups. These included (with percentages of respondents claiming that impact in brackets):

  • Reducing/limiting the maximum group size (50%)
  • Removing hands-on experiences (29%) or restructuring programs to be less hands on/change types of materials (29%)
  • Allowing only one school per day (36%) or one school at a time (29%)
  • Booking amendment/cancellation clauses (33%)
  • Reduced facilities (29%)

Cleaning measures were also having a significant impact. With 58% of respondents (representing all but two of those offering hands on experiences) saying that they will be cleaning after every group. 50% also said they are providing additional resources—time or staff—to support these additional cleaning requirements.

Additional measures put in place to support the safety and well being of staff included:

  • Designated spaces to stand/deliver with distancing (50%)
  • Infection control training (43%)
  • Face masks required when delivering programs (36%)

The survey also addressed online learning experiences

  • 86% of respondents said they will be offering online experiences in 2021
  • 43% will continue to offer some programs from 2020, but a reduced number
  • 36% will offer all their 2020 programs, and
  • 21% will grow their offer

Of those offering online experiences, 58% will be charging a fee with about a third of those introducing a new cost. Costing structures varied greatly and included:

  • $50 for a 30min session up to 4 classes at a time
  • To be kept minimal and affordable (something like $10 for online instruction)
  • Minimum $100 or $5.00 per head
  • Per student price (less than the cost of a student excursion price)
  • $2 per student, for a 20 minute session with a maximum of 30 students per class
  • $35 plus additional fee per group of 30 ($90) for some programs

Finally, there were some comments from respondents. Including an organisation whose mostly outdoor programs will move to operating entirely outdoors. There were some questions and concerns around the viability and impact of offering online programs—will they be taken up instead of onsite experiences or vice versa. 

There was a comment about the challenges of reduced group sizes due to density quotients of learning spaces—particularly because school class sizes have not changed.  It will be interesting to see how schools respond and adjust to the changes and restrictions—probably something that’s worth a follow up survey later in the year to come to a greater understanding of the impacts.

Stephanie Rosestone

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