A primary school in Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire, has recently set up a lunch time club where children who receive free school meals can go during the school holidays and eat a healthy hot meal together with teachers who volunteer their time to come and chat with their pupils. Head teacher at Scunthorpe C of E, Jennie Fullwood, told us how for some of school’s more vulnerable youngsters, the club can be a real “lifeline”.
Here at Scunthorpe C of E, many of our pupils come from areas of high deprivation, and that’s something that as a school, we’re really aware of and want to do what we can to support our students and their families.
A lot of our children receive free school meals and we know that for some of them, this can be the only nutritious meal they get that day. To go a whole week, or an entire summer holiday, without regular, nutritious food can be incredibly damaging for them, so we decided that opening our doors during school breaks was definitely something worth investing in.
The club is funded entirely by the school itself, partly by pupil premium, and by other local companies and Trust’s which I approached for their support.
The club was something I’d thought about for a while for a range of different reasons. For a child that is living in an unstable home or has a family who is facing challenging times, just knowing that they have adults around who they can trust and confide in is absolutely vital – which is why we decided that we needed some sort of provision for them out of term time.
Our staff are incredibly supportive, and many of them have volunteered their time to come along and help serve the kids their meals and do activities with them – like basketball and crafts. The children come for a couple of hours and many of them tell us that they wish they could stay longer, and that the lunch they have just eaten is their favourite meal they’ve had all week.
It creates a brilliant atmosphere and really strong relationships between our pupils and staff when they can sit down, in non-uniform, and chat about their day or anything that might be worrying them. It gives them that interaction they might not otherwise have and highlights to them how important it is to sit down and eat good, nutritious food.
Although the benefits are clear for her pupil’s health and well being, there are some challenges. Currently we have around 30 places – all for children on free school meals – but if children don’t show up for whatever reason, we have food that goes to waste. I have staffing costs for my cooks and teaching assistants, to make sure that we can run a constant and reliable service, so we have to make sure the club remains viable.
We’ve thought about creating additional paid for places so that those on free school meals don’t feel singled out, and we can use the money to create a pot of additional funding to keep those existing spaces free for those who need them.
For us, it’s really important that we take a whole school approach, and consider how what is happening in our pupil’s lives may be effecting their education – our lunch club is just one, but a very important, part of that.
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