With COVID-19-associated restrictions continuing to limit opportunities for children to be active, we are actively looking at the possibility of supporting the reopening of some junior parkrun events in the UK and Ireland early in 2021.
We’re exploring the opportunity for junior parkrun to reopen from early 2021
With restrictions still in place across the UK, and children seeing significant reductions in physical activity (particularly within disadvantaged communities), we are working with national and local stakeholders to consider and potentially support the reopening of junior parkrun events, for children aged four to ten years old (until their 11th birthday), when and where it may be appropriate to do so, early in 2021.
We are sharing this with event teams now for information only – there’s nothing for event teams to do at this stage
We would like to stress that we are at the early stages of our work on this project, and there are multiple conversations progressing with relevant stakeholders across the UK and Ireland. So, whilst nothing is guaranteed and it’s quite possible things could change as the situation evolves, we are providing this update in an effort to be as transparent as possible and to involve event teams in the process.
You have an important role to play but, importantly, at this moment in time we would kindly ask that event teams and volunteers do not try to progress things by contacting landowners or stakeholders, or seek permission to return. Rather, when and if the time is right, over the coming weeks we will write to all event teams providing further information on next steps.
We’re surveying 30,000 junior parkrun volunteers to understand appropriateness of returning and intent to return
To help inform our plans to restart junior events, and importantly, the desire of the parkrun community to volunteer and/or bring their children, we will be surveying everyone who has volunteered at a junior event in the 12 months prior to events being paused back in March.
This survey will be sent this evening and tomorrow, and we will begin to analyse the results early next week.
Any return would have to fit within, and be subject to, national and local restrictions for outdoor physical activity
At this point in time, restrictions do not allow for junior parkrun returning anywhere across the UK or Ireland. However it is important that we start the process of planning for a return as and when regional and national restrictions do allow. Of course we cannot predict what these restrictions will look like early in the new year, or exactly when they will change, however we are actively working with relevant government and public health bodies to understand how junior parkrun events could be delivered as and when restrictions allow.
It will be up to event teams to decide if and when they return
Assuming we are able to return in the new year, the decision to return, and when to do so, will sit with each event team. This is different from the approach we talked about when we discussed 5k events returning in England a couple of months ago, and there are a couple of reasons for this, see below.
With junior parkrun we would be comfortable supporting even just a small number of events returning, and as such all events would be free to follow their own timeline for reopening.
Due to the smaller average attendance compared to 5k parkrun and the minimal amount of ‘parkrun tourism’ across junior events, we are comfortable with only a small number of junior events returning. In other words, it isn’t necessary or compulsory for all events to return at the same time. If and when a junior event returns is a decision for the individual event team and we will support events in whatever decision they make.
The format will temporarily change to be for four to ten year olds only as walkers, joggers or runners. All age groups would be welcome to volunteer.
Our proposal is to initially reopen junior parkrun events for four to ten year olds only. We recognise how disappointing this will be for many children (and their parents or carers), and we are genuinely sorry that we are excluding some participants temporarily. However, we want to explain why we believe this is the right thing to do.
In the absence of 5k parkrun events, the number of registered children eligible for junior parkrun would double, from roughly 300,000 to 600,000. Whilst we know that not all older children would attend a junior parkrun event, it is likely that a significant number would, which could dramatically alter the profile of a junior event, with a high proportion of older, taller, and generally faster children making the event look and feel less safe for younger participants.
By temporarily excluding 11 to 14 year olds from the results, we would be reducing the number of registered and eligible parkrunners by around 50%. In the absence of being able to limit or cap event participation in any other way, this change does allow us some element of control, and enables us to mitigate some of the challenges we might otherwise experience from high attendances.
From the conversations and discussions we have had so far with third parties, we also believe that local stakeholders will be significantly more comfortable giving permission for events targeted at primary-school-age children.
It is of course a deep regret that initially 11 to 14 year olds will be unable to walk, jog or run at junior parkrun if and when events do return. However we would like to make it absolutely clear that this is only temporary: 11 to 14 year olds will absolutely be welcomed back to junior parkrun as soon as possible, and we expect this to be when 5k parkrun events return in the UK / Ireland.
We will be sharing more information in the coming weeks, including hosting a live Q&A for event teams across our Facebook and YouTube channels
The path to restarting events is complex, and involves many conversations with multiple stakeholders, against an ever-changing landscape of national and regional restrictions in response to the virus. So whilst there is nothing for event teams to do at this stage, and there is no guarantee we will succeed in bringing events back in the timeframe set out above, we wanted to give you all the maximum possible notice and to be completely transparent about the steps we are taking and what we hope to achieve.
We will of course be in touch again as things progress, including inviting all event teams to a live Q&A on our Facebook and YouTube channels in the coming weeks.
Thanks as ever for your continued support.
Chief Operating Officer
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