How to return to guiding after a break

Volunteer Laura Cottey shares tips for units that haven't met for a while

Laura Cottey, Chief Commissioner for South West England
27 August 2021

It’s time for a new term – and with lockdown rules a thing of the past, we can look forward to meeting in person with our units again.

All our members have done an incredible job adapting guiding during the pandemic. Trying new things, keeping up with changes to the rules and completing new paperwork hasn’t been easy, and we want to say a huge thank you to all our volunteers. Together we’ve kept guiding going through an incredibly difficult time - we could not have done it without you all!

As a new term starts, you might be thinking about how you can return to a ‘new normal’ in your unit. Maybe you’ve taken a break from volunteering and are re-starting your meetings, or you’ve been meeting virtually but feel ready to get back together face to face now? Or you’ve been having a lot of fun outdoors with your unit, but have now got a new indoor venue to meet in? Regardless of how you’ve been guiding, here’s everything you need to know to get the new term off to a safe start.

Girlguiding wants to support you in as many ways as they can, so they’ve gathered all the forms, resources and support that you need in one place. There’s also a step-by-step guide so you know exactly what you need to do.

Where should you begin?

Do whatever you feel happy with! There’s no problem with starting small. You could meet fortnightly or monthly initially and move onto weekly meetings when you feel ready.

We know lots of members will be excited to get back to their regular unit meetings, but if that’s not for you, you might like to offer a blended programme, perhaps with a combination of at-home activities and virtual and outdoor meetings, so that you include lots of different ways of meeting up.

Return to guiding – step by step

Step 1: getting started

Take the time to get familiar with the latest guidance on meeting and read the information specific to your nation and look at the FAQs. It might take a while to get back into the swing of things and that’s ok! First and foremost, take care of yourself.

Think about what you need for your own safety and wellbeing, then consider how to run guiding that supports that.

Step 2: make contact

Get in touch with your unit leadership team, parents and carers, girls that were in your unit and any new enquirers or girls on your waiting list.

  • Ask everyone in your leadership team if they’re ready to return to face-to-face guiding. It’s a good idea to have a volunteer meeting to make sure DBS checks, A Safe Space and 1st Response training are all up to date. Get your whole team involved in the planning of indoor, outdoor and virtual meetings this term. This includes young leaders.
  • Remember, young members cannot attend meetings if they’re held in private homes or gardens.
  • Reach out to any new enquiries that have come in over the summer. There’s some new email templates so you can quickly and easily get in touch with parents of new joiners.
  • Have a look at the template letter below to help you invite girls and parents to get involved.
  • You might like to send parents and girls some ideas from the Adventures at home hub to whet their appetite while you get all the details and information ready for a first meeting. There are loads of different activities to keep all age groups happy.
  • Your local commissioner is a great source of support and will help you get back up and running again. You could also speak to other unit leaders in your area or ask to attend one of their meetings to get some ideas.

Dear parents and carers [insert first name if sending by post or emailing individually],

I hope you and your family are well after this difficult year.

[Optional: Unfortunately, we've been unable to meet as a unit over the last year because our volunteer team has members who are keyworkers/are vulnerable/caring for those who are vulnerable or [insert other reason].

We've been missing our weekly meetings with the Rainbows/Brownies/Guides/Rangers [delete as appropriate]. Thank you for your support during this time.

We're excited to announce that we'd like to restart our meetings on [insert date]. To begin with, this will be virtual/outdoor face to face/indoor face to face [delete as appropriate]. Initially, we'll be meeting weekly/fortnightly/monthly [delete as appropriate] and review this regularly.

For virtual meetings you can include this: These meetings will take place via [insert digital platform, such as Zoom] and we have measures in place to keep everyone safe. We do a full risk assessment for all activities we do and this is no different. To make sure that your daughter is allowed to join the online sessions you need to complete the consent form, which I've also attached. Please fill this out and send it to [insert details of where the consent form should be returned to].

If meeting outdoors face to face you can include this text:

We can begin meeting face to face again if we follow government guidance. For us that currently means [add the right info for you here.

We'd like to invite your daughter to an outdoor meeting at:

[Add your meeting details here, for example: Town Centre playing fields, 7pm on Tuesday]

The safety of the girls and leaders is always very important to us. We do a full risk assessment for all activities we do and this is no different, and we follow all Covid responsible guidance. I know you might be feeling a bit anxious, so I wanted to let you know what plans we have put in place to keep everyone safe:

[Explain your plans here, for example,

  • We've completed a thorough Covid-19 risk assessment
  • We’ll be conducting all activities in a Covid responsible way and making sure we follow [insert nation e.g. England’s] rules and regulations. We've got some great activity ideas that will work without close contact for example.
  • Hand sanitiser will be available throughout the activity.
  • All girls will clean their hands with hand sanitiser when they arrive. They'll do this again after using shared equipment such as [balls, pens, scissors etc.]

If your daughter is feeling ill, or someone else in your household is showing symptoms of coronavirus, then they should take a PCR test, stay home and self-isolate for 10 days or until they receive a negative test. Girls must not attend any meetings until isolation is complete. We're asking the same of all our volunteers.

Can you take a look at the information included with this letter and let us know if we need to update your contact details?

I'll also need your consent for your daughter to attend this meeting, so please complete and return the attached form. This is the form we always use when meeting outside our usual meeting space.

We’ll hold on to this information and use it for Track and Trace if needed.

If you have any concerns, or would like to talk about our plans, please get in touch with me.

We're really looking forward to seeing everyone again and hope you'll be able to join us.

Step 3: meeting online

Maybe you would like your first event to be online. Below is everything you need for virtual guiding:

  • First you'll need to decide what platform to use.
  • Once you have sorted these out you'll want to be sure that everyone can be safe online so you should look at the digital safeguarding policy and procedures, plus you'll need to complete a virtual meeting checklist and risk assessment.
  • Ask parents and carers to complete the virtual meeting consent form.
  • Finally, you'll need to decide what exciting activities you are going to run – there's lots to choose from on the Adventures at home hub. By reading volunteer blogs and joining volunteer webinars, you can also learn from other volunteers what works best.

Step 4: meeting outdoors

We know that meeting outdoors is still a great way to stay Covid responsible, and luckily it’s loads of fun! Although the weather is getting cooler, there’s still plenty to enjoy outdoors.

Step 5: meeting indoors

If you’re ready to get back to your unit venue, or you’ve found a new indoor place to meet, here’s what to do before you start:

  • Consider how you might socially distance or be Covid responsible for all the information you need.
  • Is your venue still closed? Do you need to find a new one? Here’s some information to help you find a new venue. You’ll need to complete a new consent form if you’re meeting in a new place.

Don't forget there is plenty of support to help you get back to guiding, so if you have any concerns do speak to your commissioner.