Rationale for training format: We believe that it would be difficult, or perhaps impossible, to re-open our school in the usual way at the moment whilst staying in full compliance with government regulations. This is because quite different rules apply to schools and to close-contact work, and combining them is almost completely unpracticable. Furthermore, because so many of our teachers (and some of our students) are in higher risk groups, safety must be our first priority.
To be in full compliance with regulations and with safety considerations means that we are limited to online teaching, private lessons and homework. Because we believe that eight hours each week of this format is the maximum that will work well, we have decided that part-time training is our optimal choice for student well-being and progress.
MATTS will be re-opening after a 3 year break, and all but one of our students is in their first term. Students will be able to complete their first term of training over the course of the next two terms through this exceptional arrangement, after which we hope to be able to return to our originally proposed training format.
STAT may take a few weeks to give formal approval to this new formula, because the current situation is completely new. However, I have already received considerable informal encouragement for this arrangement, so for now we will be proceeding on the assumption that formal approval will come in due course.
Training will consist of a combination of the following input each week during term time: two hands-on private lessons, the two continuing Zoom classes (Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 am - 12 pm), and some set homework. Our plan is to work this way for this term (September 2020) and probably next (January 2021), after which we hope there will be an effective vaccine freely available so that we can return to normal classes in reasonable safety.
Private lessons: Students will be encouraged to have at least 75% of their lessons with Peter Bloch, Malcolm Williamson, Jane Osgood and Liz Hulse, the leading training course teachers. We will not be making this a fixed rule, especially for students who live at a greater distance from Manchester. However, students will be asked to ensure that, at a minimum, no less than half of their lessons are taken with these teachers. Other lessons can be taken with the teacher(s) of their choice. Lessons will not need to take place exactly as two each week, as long as they average that over the term as a minimum (total: 24).
Teachers will always be putting safety first. So contact work will include careful cleaning of contact surfaces, masks, face visor for the teacher, outdoors where possible, indoors with good external ventilation and (ideally) a HEPA filter air purifier. More information can be found here. As many of you know, I worked this way consistently for three weeks and it was remarkably straightforward to manage well. If a teacher is not yet able to follow government guidelines, then we strongly recommend that students do not have lessons with them at this time.
Small Groups: organising these whilst complying with government regulations is more complicated, due to greater difficulty managing this safely. We will not be organising groups straight away but may find a practical way to do this later. If we do find a way forward, they will be optional, and not advised for students who are shielding. Nearly all of our students are in their first term, and will effectively continue to be so (with half-time training) for both this term and next. The first priority in the first term of training is improvement in students’ own Use. We believe that postponing hands-on groups, if necessary, until their second term should have little or no effect on the overall quality of students' training.
Zoom Classes: students will be required to attend most classes but, where they cannot, will be expected to catch up from the posted audios and videos before the end of term. There will be a charge for students of £6 per Zoom class going forward. This money will be spent on paying for the Zoom Pro app and paying a small fee to each of the teachers that contribute to the classes.
Zoom Classes will continue as last term to be for two hours twice (Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 am – 12 pm) each week. The Zoom format can be quite demanding and most experts seem to agree that two hours with a short break is optimal. Students will be supported in producing their own risk assessment for attending these classes. Classes will continue to be organised (with exceptions for special events) around a format of guided semi-supine, a game and a talk. We expect classes to continue to have input from a wide range of different senior teachers, including several Heads of Training.
For this coming (Autumn) term, talks on Wednesdays will be mostly on anatomy & physiology, how to keep a reflective diary and discussions about the theoretical principles of the Technique. Thursday lectures will be centred around Malcolm’s readings and commentary on FM’s books and several special events. The first four Thursday lectures have already been scheduled and will consist of 1. How to work safely during Covid; 2. American senior teacher and tennis pro Gary Adelman on the application of the AT to tennis playing; 3. A talk by Alex Murray summarizing "60 years of thinking, reading and writing" about the AT; 4. A lecture by Malcolm Williamson on MSI.
Homework: As the term goes on, we will develop a routine of set homework consisting of regular semi-supine and some private reading. Students will be taught how to keep a reflective diary and strongly encouraged to do so. Students will be provided with regular updates and suggestions for further learning (including online classes provided by STAT and others) on the special trainee webpage.
Cost of Training: the addition of the small cost of Zoom classes (£6 per class) to the cost of private lessons (and possibly the occasional group) may mean that the total costs of training may be slightly higher (depending on which teachers students see) than they would otherwise have been for half time training. We expect that much or all of this will be offset by reduced travel costs, etc. However, should this change of format put anyone in unexpected difficulty, for this or for any other reason, students are invited to contact me directly to discuss how we can make this work for them.
Term Dates: Autumn Term 2020, 9 September – 5 December 2020 (Half-Term 21 October – 24 October); Spring Term 2021, 6 January – 1 April 2021 (Half-Term 17–20 February).
Finally, should the situation change during this period, either because of a return to lock-down, or due to the early availability of a vaccine, then we may need to reconsider our plans.
Some further notes for students:
Please keep your own record of your attendance at private lessons and Zoom Classes this term.
I will set aside time in the first class on Wednesday 9th Sept, for us to discuss all this.
A reminder that STAT has already approved claims of up to 36 hours of training for attendance at Zoom classes for last term.
As always, I recommend that you visit the special trainee webpage regularly for updates and interesting information.
The Manchester A.T. Training School (MATTS) will be re-opening on Wednesday 9th September as a part-time (50% of full-time) training course for teachers.
Training will be through a combination of individual lessons, online Zoom classes and some homework.