Holiday Play Schemes: Free School Meals

Department for Education written question – answered on 14th December 2020.

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Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to ensure that the extended £220 million Holiday Activities and Food Programme will be spent in part by local authorities to provide (a) educational activities and (b) academic catch-up support to children who have lost learning as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The government recognises that school holidays can be difficult for some families, with children at risk of missing out on healthy meals, activities, and learning opportunities. Children should not go hungry and our ambitious plans will mean disadvantaged children have access to healthy food and enriching activities during the main holiday periods in which children can have fun experiences, be they through sport, the arts or many other activities.

From 2021, the Holiday Activities and Food programme will cover the Easter, summer and Christmas school holidays at a cost of up to £220 million. It will be available to children in every local authority in England, building on previous programmes – including this summer, which supported around 50,000 children across 17 local authorities.

We will expect local authorities to ensure the following minimum standards:

a) Holiday clubs are required to offer an element of nutritional education each day aimed at improving the knowledge and awareness of healthy eating for children. These could, for example, include activities such as getting children involved in food preparation and cooking, growing fruit and vegetables, and taste tests. b) Clubs must include at least weekly training and advice sessions for parents, carers or other family members which provide advice on how to source, prepare and cook nutritious and low-cost food. c) Clubs must be able to provide information, signposting or referrals to other services and support that would benefit the children who attend their provision and their families. This could include sessions or information provided by Citizen’s Advice, healthcare practitioners, Family Support Services or Children’s Services, Housing Support Officers, and organisations providing financial education.

Education recovery lies at the heart of our national mission as we recover from the disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. Schools have been open for all pupils full-time since the start of the autumn term. It continues to be our aim that all pupils, in all year groups, remain in school full-time as this is the best place for them to be for their education, development and wellbeing.

However, we recognise that all children and young people have had their education disrupted as a result of COVID-19. The government has announced a catch up package worth £1 billion, including a ‘Catch up Premium’ worth a total of £650 million to support schools to make up for lost teaching time. Alongside the £650 million universal catch-up premium, we have launched the £350 million National Tutoring Programme (NTP) for disadvantaged pupils. The NTP went live on 2 November 2020 and schools are now able to access tuition to support disadvantaged pupils that needed the most help to catch-up.

Understanding the long-term impact of COVID-19 disruption on attainment and progress is a key research priority for the government, and we have commissioned an independent research and assessment agency to consider catch up needs and monitor progress over the course of the year. This will help inform strategic policy for supporting the school system.

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