Dalmarknock and Ibrox Primaries in Glasgow both opened kids clubs’ every weekday throughout July as part of the Food, Families, Futures Programme run by charity Children in Scotland.
The schools offered meals and activities for famiies that struggle financially without free school meals.
The club provided a healthy lunch, a range of activities and games for children, and an opportunity for families to socialise with each other, school staff and community partners.
Children in Scotland set up the programme in response to schools reporting that many parents faced severe difficulties during holiday periods when they had no entitlement to free school meals.
Dalmarnock Primary in Glasgow has a roll of 398 pupils, of which 56 per cent are registered for free school meals, while Ibrox has 250 nursery and primary school children and take up of free meals is 54.5 per cent.
A total of 80 children registered to attend the Dalmarnock club, which had 50 places, and 60 registered for the Ibrox holiday club’s 40 places.
The schools operated a waiting list and managed to accommodate some extra families on a day-to-day basis.
Dalmarnock Primary headteacher Nancy Clunie said, ‘The support shown for this project by the families is testament to the central role schools can play in providing support for their local communities. Everyone involved has had a great deal of fun, made new friends and learnt new things.’
Jackie Brock, chief executive of Children in Scotland said, ‘For some families, particularly those who receive free school meals, the school holidays can be a struggle. It’s not just the inevitable increase in the food bill but the pressures associated with finding appropriate childcare and activities for their children. These are all issues that exacerbate inequality.’
‘We believe keeping more schools open, free of charge, during the holidays could play a key role in tackling Scotland’s inequality challenge and be at the forefront of measures to reduce the attainment gap.’
The Food Families Futures programme will be evaluated by Professor Greta Defeyter, the director of Northumbria University’s Healthy Living research unit. She is a leading researcher on breakfast clubs, recently presenting a study to an All Party Parliamentary Group on Holiday Hunger.
The study found more than six out of ten parents with household incomes less than £25,000 per year struggled to feed their families outside of term-time – with 93 per cent of low-income parents saying they skipped at least one meal a day to make sure their children are fed.
Also this week, the headteacher of a community free school has been lambasted in the press for forcing pupils whose parents were behind on lunch payments to eat sandwiches in isolation.
A letter sent from the school to a parent was published in the Daily Mail. It said, ‘You are currently £75 overdue. If this full amount is not received within this week your child will be placed in Lunch Isolation from Monday 13th June. They will receive a sandwich and a piece of fruit only. They will spend the entire 60-minutes period in lunch isolation.’
Katharine Birbalsingh, head of Michaela community school in Wembley, defended the policy saying that it did not apply to pupils on free school meals – more than 20 per cent of attending children – or those with money problems.