Charities, sports organisations and other groups in North Yorkshire pulled together to ensure children in the county had the opportunity to try new experiences and stay socially connected, healthy and active over the summer.
The FEAST North Yorkshire holiday club programme provided many children and young people with a welcome opportunity to socialise, learn new skills and stay active after a year of restrictions and isolation brought by the pandemic.
A total of 47 different organisations and groups signed up to FEAST North Yorkshire, to provide an exciting range of activities. They ranged from sports sessions to outdoor adventures, cookery classes and art and drama workshops. North Yorkshire’s libraries also joined in to provide free activities.
The holiday clubs were open to all children and young people in the county, but were provided free to children who would normally receive benefits-related free school meals during term time and included a hot meal or packed lunch each day.
Funding for the scheme came from the Department for Education’s Holiday Activities and Food Programme. The County Council commissioned North Yorkshire Together, a partnership between Rural Arts, North Yorkshire Sport and North Yorkshire Youth, to run the programme in the county, under the banner of FEAST North Yorkshire.
In total, 15,909 holiday club places were provided. Free days out to a range of venues and attractions across the county were made available as part of the FEAST programme, giving North Yorkshire families who were eligible for free school meals the opportunity to enjoy a Grand Day Out together. This was introduced for families of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, but was extended to include more families.
They included a multi-arts summer school run by Henshaws Arts and Crafts Centre, which ran workshops in mosaic making, circus skills and music in its workshops and gardens in Knaresborough and summer day camps offering games, crafts and outdoor challenges in Bellerby, Wensleydale.
Other organisations who ran holiday clubs included Embers Outdoor Learning, a new business based in Richmond offering forest school experiences for children. They ran a Veg Patch Party over summer in a woodland at Swaledale Mountain Rescue’s base at Catterick Garrison.
The sessions were based on the book, Veg Patch Party and looked at the whole life cycle of plants and vegetables, including planting seeds to learn how plants grow and cooking food on a camp fire.
The children taking part also made heart sculptures from willow, made bird feeders, decorated trees, read books made omelettes, pizza, apple crumble and popcorn, as well as pancakes and toasties on the fire. It was also an opportunity for children to learn how to be safe around a camp fire.
Rachael Muir, of Embers Outdoor Learning holiday club, who recently who recently left a career in teaching to set up the organisation, said: “Children have missed out on so much over this past year or so. Even when they’ve been in school, it’s been in controlled conditions; they haven’t been able to mix with other year groups.
“Schools aren’t just about education, they’re also about socialisation and opportunities for play and this has been really missed during the pandemic. Playgrounds have been closed off and after school clubs and holiday clubs haven’t been able to run. Just allowing children to play and be with other children has been so important. A highlight for me personally during this holiday club has been seeing children enjoy themselves, mixing with other children and just letting off steam.”
Nigel Carson ran a multi-sport holiday club at Northstead School in Scarborough over the summer, offering activities including football, bench ball, cricket, rounder and tennis.
He said: “We had lots of children aged five to 11 coming here and experiencing new sports.
“The children got lots of fresh air, lots of exercise, learnt some new activities, had a healthy lunch and met some new friends and hopefully will come back.”
There was also a selection of virtual activities for families to enjoy at home, such as live cook-a-longs with Phunky Foods.
More than 12,000 holiday activity packs with ideas and inspiration for holiday activities were also distributed to families via schools.
Cllr Patrick Mulligan, Executive Member for Education and Skill thanked the organisations in North Yorkshire who took part in the holiday club programme.
He said: “We know the pandemic had a negative impact on the mental and physical health of many children and young people and many of the activities they would normally enjoy, such as playing with friends, joining in with sports or even going to the playground had to be put on hold.
“We also know many families’ incomes were hit hard by the pandemic, so to be able to offer children a healthy meal, fun activities and a chance to socialise and learn new skills was vitally important over the holidays.
“We would like to thank all the providers who signed up to FEAST North Yorkshire and all the volunteers who gave up their time to run activities in their community. We’ve received a lot of positive feedback from families and know it made a lot of difference to children and their families.”