This week’s announcement about lockdown easing has brought little comfort to many leisure and gym-based businesses who are unable to open despite having robust plans in place to keep their students safe.
Paige Hottor, Head Coach of MK Cheerleading Academy (MKCA), has “no words” following today’s announcement, and suspects that the businesses that have been allowed to open have been prioritised because of their contribution to the economy.
A Community Interest Company (CIC), MK Cheerleading Academy offers cheerleading classes for vulnerable and disadvantaged children across Milton Keynes, plus they offer specialist services through their Special Educational Needs team so that Cheerleading is an accessible sport for everyone across the city.
Paige, also a secondary school teacher in the area said: “We simply cannot continue like this for much longer. It’s not just an issue about paying our rent, but the emotional damage this is doing to the children. Many of them aren’t able to attend school and they miss their classes, their friends and the benefits that sport brings to their emotional wellbeing.
“Lots of our students have trained for many years to qualify for some national and international competitions, but it’s all been taken away from them. For our students, it’s the year of let-downs.”
Throughout the 3 month lockdown, Paige and her team has adapted so that they can continue to offer support, but their options are now limited.
Paige adds: “Our team who are self-employed, are volunteering now and whilst we’ve gone online, it simply isn’t the same and our students need to have that in-person experience, but from a safe distance. We can’t run our classes outside because our insurance won’t allow it.
“I find it incredible that children can go to a cinema where there are potentially hundreds of people sat breathing in recycled air, but we aren’t allowed to open up our studio where we’d have very small bubbles of 4 (2 students and 2 coaches with no students sharing equipment) which will have a far greater impact on the children’s emotional wellbeing compared to watching the latest movie.”
MK Cheerleading Academy is based at Denbigh Business Park, where they lease their studio through Bucks Biz. General Manager, Dominic Muscat said: “Our customers have been hanging on for today’s announcement so that they can implement their plans to get their businesses open again.
“Whilst the government funding has been incredible – we’ve facilitated the Small Business Grant Fund for our 300 customers – we do feel that a second round of funding must be available for the businesses who have been asked to remain closed.
“Many of our clients have benefited from having a flexible arrangement with Bucks Biz, so they’ve been able to adapt their businesses to keep within the social distancing guidelines, but for gyms, which are typically very large units, the guidelines are preventing them from doing this.
“For MK Cheerleading Academy, they’ve got a great unit with a shutter which can be opened at all times so that it’s safe and almost as good as being outside. We really want to support them in finding a solution so that they can continue to offer their coaching classes to children across Milton Keynes.”
Paige, who wrote to her local MP earlier this week adds: “We need a miracle to allow us to keep going right now. We’d be keen to hear from any local business who think they can support us. The children in Milton Keynes have had enough taken away from them, so we’ll do everything we can to keep our Cheerleading Academy open.”