School holidays programme for kids deemed ‘success’

One in five of eligible children in Enfield took part, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

A child colouring in a butterfly
Image credit Lucas Alexander/Unsplash

A scheme to provide food and activities for young people was a “success” after reaching more than one-fifth of eligible children, according to an Enfield Council report.

More than 2,700 children who are eligible for free school meals took part in the summer holiday activities and food programme in Enfield, exceeding a target set by the government despite challenges such as the coronavirus pandemic.

Funded by the Department for Education (DfE), the programme provided meals and a range of activities focused on sport, healthy eating and wellbeing, arts and crafts, and performing arts. It reached 22% of eligible children in the borough, above DfE’s 20% target.

According to the report, which was presented to the children, young people and education scrutiny panel on Wednesday, the programme helped to reduce food poverty and hunger. The council is hoping to reach more children as it gears up for a winter programme of activity.

Ivana Price, the council’s head of early help, youth and community safety services, told the panel: “DfE expected local authorities to reach up to 20% of the local free school meals children’s population. In Enfield, we have managed to do that – we have actually engaged 22% of the eligible cohort of children.

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“There has been substantive learning from both delivery in Easter and summer that is going to inform our planning and delivery arrangements for the winter provision.”

The programme aims to provide free holiday activity places to children eligible for free school meals for a minimum of four hours a day, four days a week. It is intended to cover four weeks in the summer holidays and a week in each of the Easter and winter holidays. The council selected 19 local providers to deliver the summer programme.

Andrew Thorp, a Conservative member of the panel, pointed out that although Enfield had exceeded the DfE target, 78% of eligible children had not used the programme.

He added: “Looking at the summary of the marketing activity, lots of it seems to be through digital channels. Lots of families eligible for this may not have access to digital channels. I would be interested to know what we are doing to market and push out to those to increase take-up.”

Ivana said the council had asked schools and headteachers to pass information about the scheme to parents of eligible children, while individual providers carried out local marketing activities. She added that the council aimed to start marketing the programme earlier next summer.

One of the major issues was the capacity to meet the increased volume of children, Ivana told the panel. She said: “There have been some significant constraints within the local providers’ market capacity. We have put a lot of support in place to support small local providers.”

Ivana said the “key challenge” was helping smaller providers meet the standards put in place by the DfE. 

Peter Nathan, the council’s director of education, said concerns over “high levels” of Covid-19 in schools may also have affected uptake as parents chose to keep their children at home.

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