Children across the borough had a summer of fun, thanks to the council’s holiday activities and food programme (HAF). Funded by the Department for Education and the council, the HAF programme offered weekly activities to children across the borough who were eligible for benefits-based free school meals.
Over 650 children attended the five -week programme, with activities for primary, secondary and those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), delivered in partnership with local organisations, and with over 10,000 free healthy meals provided.
Children with SEND attended Building For The Future and enjoyed a range of facilities, including soft play, a sensory room, teen chill-out zone, gaming and free play area. Some also attended Reading Football Club for their summer camp for children with SEND.
For primary aged children, a variety of activities were available through Energy Kidz, Funtasic Kids, Get Active and BA Sports. Activities included circus workshops, sports, drama, quizzes, story writing, healthy food preparation and wellbeing activities such as meditation and yoga.
For secondary students, they took part in activities through Alt Prov, including sport, dance, music production, song writing, make up and effects, video editing and visits to local activities such as Dinton Pastures, Oakwood Climbing Centre and Jac Stables.
Also on offer was a weekly family community event, where families could come together to have fun with activities such as bike repairs and the smoothie bike with MyJourney, planting workshops by Public Health, and sports and games. Also on hand were local support services, such as First Days to help with school uniforms, The Cowshed with clothing, and Helping Hand Shinfield who collect and distribute donations of essential items.
Viki, Assistant Director Children’s Services, Strategic and Operational Delivery, said: “It was a challenge to get everything set up in time, but our internal teams, local partners and venues worked incredibly hard to to create a summer holiday full of fun for children and young people who may in the past have not been able to access the organised activities their peers do in the holidays. It was great to see so many children enjoying themselves, and we were also able to offer support and signposting. First Days received over 180 uniform referrals from our community events!
“This is an important new offer, and we’ve been learning what works and what doesn’t with feedback from children, young people, parents and carers. We hope in the future to be able to welcome many more children and young people onto the programme. We are currently planning our Christmas activities and more information will be available shortly.”
One of the parents whose children attended the sessions said: “My kids have never had a summer like this and opportunities to do the things they did on their clubs. I met amazing people on my youngest’s additional needs club too. I’m so grateful we got to take part in it. “
Cllr Graham Howe, executive member for children’s services, said: “Having the funding to run the HAF programme means we are able to provide ongoing support and activities for children and young people through the holidays, which is often a time of isolation and when money can be even tighter.
“It is great that so many children and young people across the borough were able to take part in such an array of interesting and diverse activities over the summer holidays. The team worked hard to make sure that there was something for everyone, involving other great local organisations.
“We will have more activities coming up in the Christmas break and are waiting to hear if we have been successful in our funding bid to continue to deliver this over the coming year.”
Bookings for the Christmas activities will open soon with eligible families notified.
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