At the weekend, Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson stated he ‘cannot give a date’ for schools to reopen, which seems to put paid to any anticipated announcement that schools will reopen before the end of May. Whether they will in fact reopen before the end of this academic year remains unclear.
What we do know is that continuing to put the safety and well-being of our NHS, our most vulnerable members of our communities and our wider population remains paramount and a responsibility we must all share. This period of uncertainty is unlike any most of us have ever faced, or hopefully will face again. It has no prejudice and leaves no sector of humanity untouched, irrespective of your background, place in society or country of origin.
The need for organisations like UKSA will be even more apparent once this current crisis state passes, so ensuring our financial resilience has never been more critical. At UKSA we have developed an organisational Coronavirus response plan which includes us exploring funding streams for the charity that we would not have been thinking about or considering just a few short weeks ago. However, as the old saying goes “we are where we are” (we all are!) and what is amazing about people, is how just quickly we all adapt to unforeseen situations and challenges. ‘Adapt and overcome’ as the Marines would say.
We are surrounded by daily reminders of the tenacity of the human spirit. Businesses repurposing to produce hand sanitiser, masks, scrubs and visors. Examples like The 2.6 Challenge, a nationwide fundraising campaign launched in response to COVID-19 pandemic to help save the UK’s Charities. Here the UK’s mass participation event industry, together with Just Giving, will provide thousands of us across the county some well needed light relief, fun and importantly we can raise money for charities that provide amazing services to their beneficiaries that are currently facing uncertain futures.
At the end of March, Government restrictions meant we had to cease operations and close our site. Right now, UKSA would normally be heading into the bustling phase of schools’ visits, with thousands of children aged 8 upwards flocking to the island, many of them leaving the comfort zone of the one mile radius surrounding their homes for the first time.
Alongside this all our young people and professional students should be with us too. They would have been studying on their education and careers courses to gain qualifications and employment. Their immediate plans having to be put on hold is unsettling and a challenge for all of them. With schools closed and our operations suspended until at least mid-May, UKSA has been forced to leave courses incomplete, our students have had to return home and schools had to postpone their visits to us. It will be some time before we get to see any of our students and beneficiaries again.
None of us have a crystal ball available that tells how long this is all going to go for and when life returns what will it all look like. But at UKSA we remain absolutely committed to our core purpose of supporting children & young people to broaden their horizons through our life enhancing water-based adventures, education and training for careers at sea.
We all have to try and navigate this temporary interruption to our lives and our own organisations over the next 6 – 12 months, but I believe it is really important to remember life will return, the economy will recover in time, and for UKSA the need and demand for our activities and training for employment programmes will remain. If anything, they will become even more important (post Coronavirus), especially for those facing such difficult times living through this nationwide lock down.
So whether you are eagerly awaiting the news about when UKSA will recommence operations in order to start our Superyacht Cadetship, take a MCA Officer of the Watch course or spend a week immersing yourself in all things watersports related with your classmates, we are working around the clock to ensure we will be ready and look forward to welcoming you with open arms.
Ben Willows – UKSA Chief Executive Officer