Thousands of schoolchildren are to benefit from holiday clubs after Stoke-on-Trent secured £1.4 million in Government funding.
Children’s minister Vicky Ford saw one of the first sessions in action yesterday when she visited Ball Green Primary School.
And she even joined in with a cookery challenge, where children learnt how to make chickpea kofta wraps.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council and the Hubb Foundation are overseeing the programme over the Easter break, with 140 sessions across a nine-day period. The funding will also cover clubs over the summer holidays and at Christmas.
Mrs Ford said: “I am so impressed. This is the first time that we have run the holiday activities and food (HAF) programme across the whole country. But Stoke-on-Trent has been piloting projects for a number of years.
“I’ve come to see how it is really making a difference. It’s not just about food, but also learning. I’m hoping the children will learn lots of skills and build confidence.”
At Ball Green, pursuits have included archery and crab football. Each day, children who take part also get a free meal.
Mrs Ford says the scheme ties in neatly with the Covid recovery strategy, particularly in getting youngsters mixing with other pupils again after months of remote learning.
“A lot of children have commented that they’ve made new friends, which is really important for mental health and wellbeing,” she added.
Mrs Ford’s visit was also a nostalgic trip as she has family connections to Stoke-on-Trent – and has even been scouring a local graveyard for her husband’s ancestors.
Pupils were keen to show her some of the things they have been doing this week.
Nine-year-old Jayden Brown, from Ball Green, said: “I’m coming here Tuesday to Friday. It’s actually quite fun coming to school during the holiday.”
Poppy Bourne also prefers the holiday club to sitting at home getting bored.
The 10-year-old, from Ball Green, said: “We’ve been doing some exercises with the Port Vale people. We’ve also done hula-hooping in the morning – that’s my favourite. It’s good because you get to learn and do fun stuff.”
Eleven-year-old Jack Austin, from Ball Green, added: “We’ve made smoothies and spicy food as well.”
Headteacher Jon Hankey says the club is already having an impact, with up 45 children a day taking part at the school. “It’s about getting them out into the fresh air, mixing with friends and teaching them life skills,” he added.
“The cookery is also healthy and they are things that the children could make for themselves at home.”
Although the Hubb Foundation has been operating holiday clubs for several years, the Government funding has meant they can ramp up the activities this year.
The city council hopes 14,000 primary and secondary age pupils will get involved during the course of 2021.
Adam Yates, from the Hubb Foundation, said: “It’s massive. Each day of the week over Easter, we have 40 or 50 sessions. We will be serving nearly 5,000 meals over the nine days.”
Stoke-on-Trent has been awarded a total of £1,478,690 for the holiday clubs in 2021. Staffordshire is getting £2,231,290 through the Government’s HAF scheme, and Cheshire East is receiving £881,340.
Nationally, the scheme is aimed at supporting pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, but schools can open up the activities to others as well.
Here are the top stories from the StokeonTrentLive newsletter:
Want to sign up to receive these stories straight to your inbox? It’s free and means you’ll never miss the most important Stoke-on-Trent news of the day
You can sign up for free here
Not signed up yet but want to try it out?
You can read a preview of today’s newsletter here
Love nostalgia? We have you covered….
You can also sign up to receive our new weekly The Way We Were newsletter too. Sign up for free here