The impact of the school summer holidays on poor and disadvantaged children has been well researched: Child Poverty Action Group, Barnardo’s and the Trussell Trust all present compelling evidence that the six week break is nothing short of brutal for poor families. In July and August last year, for example, 47% of the people supported by the Trussell Trust’s food banks were aged 5 to 11 years old.
Families in food poverty will struggle this summer. Planning meals to ensure you have enough food for the family, as well as considering what food the children will actually eat – sometimes culminating in literally counting pennies to buy a bag of pasta – takes an incredible amount of parental resilience and energy. It’s no surprise that enriching educational experiences are off the radar for many poor children, as activities take second place to nourishment.
School-Home Support Practitioners are based in primary and secondary schools – their work supports vulnerable children and ensures poverty isn’t a barrier to learning. During term time support on issues such as domestic violence, poverty, mental health is readily available. During the longer summer break it’s much harder for families. Our school-based practitioners help families prepare for the summer holidays with parental workshops. These ‘Summer Holiday Workshops’ are hosted during the last few weeks of term and as well as providing information on local free activities and events, these workshops help parents support each other through the summer break. They are encouraged to arrange an afternoon of rounders in the park, for example, sharing the cost of a picnic and bat and ball.
During the workshops, practitioners also ask parents to brainstorm the free activities they did as children and teach them how to research their own local events. SHS Practitioners will also distribute important information on local services, ensuring any vulnerable families are referred to the local foodbank – the lack of free school meals is inevitably a real struggle and with children at home all day, the stress of poverty can hit hard.
School-Home Support’s Welfare Fund is a lifeline for the poorest families we support over the summer holidays. Practitioners can apply for vulnerable children to get places on low cost sport, art or music activities, providing a real boost to children and giving families something to look forward to.
As well as working with children and families through primary and secondary schools, our high intensity work with particularly vulnerable young people continues through the summer holidays. The summer break can be a real opportunity to engage children who are missing from education, and a tactic used by our specialist practitioners involves finding free or low cost activities that young people refusing to go school might enjoy.
“Once you’ve got them engaged in a football camp or week of music workshops, they realise they enjoy new activities, that they can make friends and succeed at something. With increased self-esteem and confidence, young people are more receptive to conversations about going back to school; they start to believe in themselves.” – Queenie Rushton, Troubled Families Practitioner