Your audiences

The floor in the learning space at Manchester City Art Gallery being used as a work space by families © Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester Metropolitan University
The floor in the learning space at Manchester City Art Gallery being used as a work space by families © Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester Metropolitan University

Adhering to relevant government advice

Colleagues are strongly encouraged to ensure that programming, resources and interventions allow audiences a consistent opportunity to adhere to the government guidelines of their home nation.

As of 4 July 2020, and confirmed on 13 August, guidelines in England say social interactions should be limited to a group of no more than two households (indoors and out) or, if outside, up to six people from different households.

In Scotland up to 15 people in groups of up to four households can meet outside at any one time.

In Wales groups of up to four households can join together to form an extended household, and gatherings of up to 30 people are allowed out of doors.

In England, businesses and venues following Covid Secure guidelines can host larger groups. This is also the case for events in public outdoor spaces that are organised by businesses, charitable or political organisations, and public bodies, provided they take reasonable steps to mitigate the risk of transmission, in line with Covid Secure guidance and including completion of a Risk Assessment.

As of the 15 August live indoor performances in front of a socially-distanced audience are allowed. Audiences should continue to socially distance from anyone not in their household or bubble.

Government guidance for working with schools and children

Guidance for schools in England from the Department for Education (DfE) published on 2 July and updated on 28 August states:

  • Supply teachers, peripatetic teachers and/or other temporary staff can move between schools. ‘Where they need to move between classes and year groups, they should try and keep their distance from pupils and other staff as much as they can, ideally 2 metres from other adults.’
  • In the autumn term, schools can resume non-overnight domestic educational visits. The DfE guidance says ‘This should be done in line with protective measures, such as keeping children within their consistent group, and the COVID-secure measures in place at the destination.’

It also states that Primary age children are expected to work in whole class bubbles and Secondary age children to work in year group bubbles.

You should consider how you can ensure social distancing, of ideally two metres, between your staff and freelancers and any school bubbles that visit your site.

The Scottish Government published guidance on the return to school on 30 July which included requirements for increased cleaning, hygiene measures and working in bubbles. It requires that movement between schools of peripatetic staff be kept to a minimum but also says:

  • ‘Recognising the importance of holistic support for children and young people … every effort should be made to secure these wider inputs through lower risk methods such as digital/virtual means or outdoor settings.’

Guidance for out-of-school-settings

Guidance for out-of-school settings also published by the English Department for Education states:

  • Children and young people who attend your setting should be kept in small, consistent groups, and of no more than 15 children and at least one staff member.
  • If you are operating provision for multiple small groups of children throughout the day, you should allow sufficient changeover time between different classes for cleaning to take place and to prevent children and parents or carers waiting in large groups.

The guidance is clear that if you are running provision that mixes children from different school bubbles, and are unable to keep children in small consistent groups of 15 or fewer you should follow government guidelines on the Phased return of sport and recreation in England, which allow up to six people from different households to meet outdoors, and keep children in groups of no more than six, including staff members. These groups of six need to follow social distancing guidelines.

Government guidance for activities with participants

Guidance from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for performing arts organisations provides information on activities for ‘Non-professionals (meaning those participating in performing arts other than for work purposes), or groups which include non-professionals’, and states:

  • Social interactions should be limited to a group of no more than two households (indoors and out) or up to six people from different households (if outdoors).
  • There are now no set limits on the number of people who can be involved in events taking place outside at a Covid-secure venue which has an appropriate risk assessment and measures in place including social distancing.

The guidance for children and adults differs as a result of the reduced risk to children compared to adults of Covid-19.

Early Years audiences and audiences with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

Some audiences rely more on touch than others as a method of learning. This is especially true for Early Years and for children and adults with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities – SEN/SEND.

For Early Years practice, consider:

  • The experience. Maintain a balance between the needs, rights and experiences of children and the measures that must be put in place to reduce risk of infection. Reducing contact between young children during Early Years sessions is difficult; risk can be mitigated by regularly cleaning surfaces, objects and toys. Avoid using objects and toys with intricate parts or made from materials that can’t be easily cleaned.
  • Contact between families. Encourage adults and children from the same household to interact with each other and not across family bubbles. Can handling objects and toys be used solely by one family group during a closed museum session? Can you position families in socially distanced spaces? Consider measures for wandering children! How will this impact on workshop delivery, quality assurance and the overall experience?
  • Contact between families and members of staff. Implement measures that limit the number of contacts between children and unrelated adults (for example, seat a storyteller at a social distance from listening families).
  • Hygiene procedures. Regularly clean frequently touched surfaces such as table tops, play equipment, toys, handrails and door handles. Refer to the HSE guidance. Handwashing is key: have you got access to handwashing facilities before and after object handling or play? If not, can you use bubble group buckets of warm soapy water? How will this be managed in the space, time and with mess limitation? Consider the swallow risk of hand sanitiser and the impact on delicate skin. 
  • Capacity. Drop-in sessions in public and closed learning spaces will be difficult to manage. Consider making them into bookable sessions to manage numbers or create targeted programmes (for example, open to an invited group of participants only).

Early Years case studies

Manchester Museum have continued their Muso-Baby session virtually during lockdown. It’s a closed session for parents referred from social care settings. Relationships are vitally important.  

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

For Special Educational Needs and Disabilities practice, consider:

  • Information prior to a visit. Social stories, or filmed introductions, are a good way to convey what a visit might be like and how this has changed to make the building Covid Secure.
  • Talking to audiences and groups about their comfort levels around returning in the short, medium and long term. Some groups with complex needs may have particular health needs to consider. There is likely to be a deeper level of conversation with those with whom you have a pre-existing relationship.
  • Accessibility. What and where are the touch points that make a visit accessible (large print guides, braille panels, touch screens, tactile surfaces)? How can these be cleaned on a regular basis, or rotated? Can visitors help by cleaning before and after touching, or using hand sanitiser? Talk to venue colleagues. Will this impact on staffing?
  • Consider the impact of PPE and hygiene procedures on your staff welcome. Some people may dislike the texture of hand sanitiser, or nitrile gloves. Are there hand washing or glove alternatives? PPE and face coverings, can be intimidating for some neurodiverse people, and hinder lip reading for those who are visually impaired.
  • Digital inclusion. Some digital methods may exclude those with additional needs. The DCN digital inclusion standards may help aid thinking.

Direct Access offer excellent accessibility services and have experience of working with the arts, cultural and heritage sector. They offer audits, training and free resources covering physical, online and learning access.

RNIB have issued some useful guidance for retailers that may provide a starting point for supporting visitors who would usually rely on being physically guided.

Special education needs (SEN) case studies

Natural History Museum, London, have pivoted to digital engagement for Dawnosaurs Online for children with neurodiverse conditions and sensory processing difficulties.  

Melbourne Museum, Australia, have created specific Covid-19 related social stories.   

Useful online resources relating to working with audiences