Thousands of children from disadvantaged families across the West Midlands are getting free summer holiday activities and healthy food thanks to a Government programme delivered by leading physical activity provider Aspire Active Camps.
Young people at schools in Birmingham and South Staffordshire are benefitting from Aspire’s local partnership providing the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) Government-funded scheme, which has been expanded following the Covid-19 pandemic to help families over the six-week break.
In total, 16 schools in Birmingham are working with Aspire Active Camps, along with four local authority programmes in South Staffordshire.
The Government HAF funding is for the delivery of free holiday provision, including food and enriching activities to disadvantaged children in the West Midlands area, many of whom would find summer holiday experiences otherwise out of reach to them.
The daytime sessions, which are being run over four weeks, began on Thursday July 22. Aspire Active Camps provide activity sessions including sports and games around healthy eating meals.
The HAF sessions for the West Midlands are part of a programme which was rolled out across England as part of the Government’s response to the drop in children’s participation in activity during the pandemic and the knock-on financial hardships faced by families affected by lockdown.
For the past 12 years Aspire Active Camps has delivered Ofsted-registered sports and activity sessions during every school holiday at venues throughout the West Midlands, helping children to have fun while being physically active.
Having faced disruption in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and accompanying lockdowns, leading physical activity provider Aspire, which has its HQ in Spitfire Road, Birmingham, has led the way in partnering with schools to use the HAF funding.
Since its launch in 2005, the Aspire Active Camps parent company Aspire Active Education Group Ltd has engaged children and young people in physical activity, by providing innovative delivery and training services and resources that educate and inspire.
With an aim of “ending physical inactivity forever”, Aspire is leading the fight to address a shocking threat to the UK’s national health. Today’s children may be the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents, a prospect which Aspire want to prevent.
Founder and Director of Business Development Paul Griffiths said Aspire had “stepped up” to help schools access the HAF provision. He said: “It is important that children are in an environment where they can be active and enjoy healthy food so we wanted to ensure schools in our region could access the HAF support to be part of the programme.
“With the impact of Covid still being felt, families need help during the summer school holidays, which can expose financial hardships. By shaping programmes which can be enjoyed by as many children as possible, we are pleased to have stepped up to make a difference.”
Among the schools to benefit is Bellfield Junior School, in Vineyard Road, Northfield, Birmingham. Nigel Attwood, Head Teacher of Bellfield Junior, said working with Aspire had benefitted children who would otherwise not been able to enjoy summer holiday activities and wholesome food.
Nigel said: “Schools are aware of the challenges faced by so many families so it has been fantastic to be able to provide high quality sessions for young people during the longest holidays of the year.
“Aspire are a trusted partner for summer activities and have the track record in delivering Government funded programmes, which meant they provided the support for us to be able to help as many children as possible in these difficult times.”
The Government announced in November that the HAF programme, first launched in 2018, would be expanded across the whole of England in 2021 to “provide healthy food and enriching activities to disadvantaged children”.
Funding was increased to cover the Easter, summer and Christmas holidays in 2021, with £220m made available to all local authorities in England to coordinate free holiday provision. Attendance is voluntary but it is hoped the holiday club places support children who receive benefits-related free school meals.
Since 2005, Aspire Active Education Group Ltd has built its reputation on delivering services around engaging young people through physical activity via four operations: Aspire Training Solutions, its arm around skills and training; Aspire Active Camps, the sports-focussed school holiday childcare provider; and Aspire Sports, which directly delivers school sessions. The fourth, Aspire Active Partnership, is a network of children’s activity providers forming a values-driven community.
During COVID, Aspire has survived the toughest times in its history while supporting the network it has built, providing invaluable information and support for its network of children activity providers and partner schools and other organisations.