The key differences between the half term and holiday programmes are:

Between 2019 and 2020 the Active Essex Foundation took action to help young people in Essex stay active and enjoy nutritious food during the school holidays, reaching over 2000 families in Essex most affected by food insecurity. 2021 saw the Department for Education launch their Holiday Activities and Food programme, and Active Essex were chosen to deliver the programme across Essex and Thurrock. The name Essex ActivAte sums up the key elements of the programme – provision of activities and nutritious food for children and young people in Essex.

The Department for Education’s programme runs during the Easter, Summer and Winter holidays and is aimed solely at school children who would usually receive benefits based free school meals during term time. As such, Essex County Council quickly recognised a gap in the offer, both in provision for those on the cusp of benefits based eligibility, and support during the Half Terms. In response, the council provide additional funding to extend the offer to low income working families and a small number of other eligible groups during the longer holidays, and ahead of each Half Term they aim to allocate funding to run a smaller scale programme for both those eligible for benefits based free school meals and from low income working families. Alongside this Basildon Borough Council also provide match funding to further support the offer in their district during the Half Terms.

These different ways in which Essex ActivAte programmes are funded, and the stipulations of each funder, can sometimes cause confusion for both organisations and families, so keep reading to find out about what we offer in more detail…

Across both the Half Terms and the longer holidays, we work with our trusted partners to deliver:

A variety of physical and enrichment activities

We are very proud of the vast variety of activities on offer through the Essex ActivAte programme. We work with over 100 delivery partners, and a number of external activity providers, to ensure there is something for everyone.

Many of our partners have years of experience in delivering an array of activities at their sessions, from multisports, obstacle courses, team games, dance and martial arts, to arts & crafts, cooking, drama, puzzles and creative writing. Each school holiday our partners go above and beyond to provide something new and exciting for youngsters, whether it be an usual craft, an awesome inflatable course, a special challenge or the chance to meet animals.

Alongside these very varied sessions, we also work with partners who have expertise in a particular activity, such as dance, football, equine therapy or baking, which may be most prominent at their club. Whilst these clubs cater to specific interests, they each still deliver their own selection of additional activities, to ensure that children have the chance to take part in both physical and enrichment activities, as well as learning about nutritious food in some way.

This variety of activities is reflected within our activity packs, which are printed and handed out to families during the Easter, Summer and Winter breaks.

Nutritious food

Within every Essex ActivAte club, our partners work to help children explore food and nutrition, aiming to instil nutritious eating habits and an awareness of the impact of food on the body, so that youngsters may carry this forward throughout their lives. This comes in a number of ways:

  • Every club provides attendees with a tasty, nutritious meal. During the Easter, Summer and Winter holidays these are fully funded for every child, during the Half Terms these are free for those eligible for benefits based free school meals, with the option for other eligible families to pay a small fee for lunch or provide a packed lunch.
  • Every club includes some form of food education. Whether it be cooking and baking sessions, smoothie creation, quizzes and games based on nutritious eating, or art & crafts exploring the human body – our partners aim to encourage children to try new foods, consider nutritious food choices and notice how food makes them feel both physically and mentally.
  • Our Activity Packs feature fun food based activities for youngsters to enjoy at home. From brain teasers and puzzles, to designing a new vegetable or creating a new recipe, every activity pack features engaging activities to keep nutrition in mind at home.
  • We work with Full Time Meals to provide tasty recipes for all the family. Within our Easter, Summer and Winter printed resources, we provide 4 new recipes from Tom Kerridge and Marcus Rashford’s Full Time Meals campaign. These recipes are easy, affordable and keep equipment to a minimum – providing something for everyone! Some recipes can even be whipped up in less than 10 minutes.

During every holiday programme we offer a number of SEND Hubs, offering tailored activities, in smaller groups, run by specialist coaches. Just as we aim to provide something for everyone within our mainstream clubs, each club provides it’s own unique range of activities – from arts & crafts, sensory play, quizzes, puzzles, and role play, to animal encounters, soft play, multisports, team games, and outdoor exploration!

We have created a dedicated SEND Hub booking page, to help families quickly navigate the clubs on offer, based on the location and level of support provided.

Mental Wellbeing Hubs

Alongside our mainstream and SEND offer, we felt it was important to also offer Mental Wellbeing Hubs for children and young people who may benefit for an alternative environment. These sessions are aimed at youngsters who might not be comfortable within busy mainstream clubs, whether that be due to mental health challenges, or lack of confidence / independence. These sessions are usually shorter (apprxox. 2 hrs) and in smaller groups, providing a calmer space for children to enjoy activities, try new things and meet new people – all at their own pace.

Family Support

We aim for every club to provide support for the families of attendees. Every partner is able to signpost families to relevant organisations, events or information, based on their discussions with parents and guardians. We also provide a printed family booklet for families, during the Easter, Summer and Winter holidays, providing lots of tips, guidance and inspiration. Beyond this, many partners also offer family activities, celebration events, training sessions, trips and performances.

At Home Support

Families can access lots of activities, resources and support, via the Family Support Hub – this is updated ahead of each school holiday. During the Easter, Summer and Winter programmes, we also design and print a number of family resources which are handed out at clubs and available on to download from the Support Hub. These include a ‘Family Pack’ providing lots of tips, guidance and inspiration and two fun-filled activity packs for ‘Younger’ and ‘Older’ school children, featuring a wide range of physical, enrichment and food based activities, as well as outdoor exploration ideas.

Active Essex
Two people playing catch

Activity Finder

Discover what physical activity and sport opportunities are available near you.

Find Your Active here