Essex ActivAte summer programme benefits physical and mental wellbeing of young people across Essex

Active Essex

Active Essex, Essex County Council and Thurrock Council supported more than 27,800 children and young people through their biggest ever holiday activities and food programme.

This summer Active Essex, Essex County Council and Thurrock Council delivered the Government’s Holiday Activities and Food programme, on behalf of the Department for Education. Working with a network of 108 locally trusted organisations, the team ran 218 Essex ActivAte clubs across the county, providing more than 230,000 spaces for those who may otherwise not have access to holiday clubs. This enabled children to enjoy activities with friends and develop new skills, in a safe and fun environment. Within the feedback survey 92% of parents reported a positive impact on both physical and mental wellbeing after their child/ren attended an Essex ActivAte club.

Backed by a nationwide investment of up to £220 million, the extended programme follows on from a successful Easter offer, providing vital support to families. Running from Monday 26th July – Friday 27th August, clubs targeted primary and secondary school children who are eligible for benefits based free school meals. In addition, Essex County Council expanded the offer to open up a number of spaces within clubs to children and young people from low income working families who require this additional support.

Essex ActivAte clubs featured an impressive total of 180 different types of activity throughout the summer, providing children with the opportunity to have hours of fun, discover new passions and find their own way to enjoy getting active. From team sports, yoga, martial arts, and pony rides, to crafts, music, coding and exploring nature, there was something for everyone. Plus, every child received a tasty, nutritious meal and learned about food through fun activities such as cooking, gardening and designing their own dishes. Beyond this, clubs not only offered a mix of activities each day at local schools and sports venues, but many also ran from unique locations such as nature reserves, wellbeing farms and outdoor centers, in order to enable families to choose the most suitable environment for their little ones and offer new and exciting experiences.

In line with their county wide Find Your Active campaign, Active Essex provide this wide variety of activities in order to help youngsters find new ways to get active and instill an appreciation for physical activity. By enabling children to discover new passions, the team hope to inspire them to carry this forward throughout their lives.

Every Essex ActivAte club is inclusive, with training provided for SEND ambassador and Mental Wellbeing ambassadors at each venue. Beyond this Active Essex also recognise that some children need additional support or a calmer environment, and as such 29 specialised SEND and 16 Mental Wellbeing Hubs were delivered across the county. SEND hubs featured specialist coaches, a higher ratio of staff to children and a variety of inclusive activities. Mental Wellbeing Hubs focus on shorter sessions, in smaller groups, with attention paid to coping mechanisms and a gentle approach to community engagement.

Alongside face to face clubs, Active Essex also delivered a fun-filled virtual offer, to help children and young people find inventive ways to have fun and get active at home throughout the school holidays, all without cost. This included 2 activity packs with over 40 activities per pack, as well as a summer bucket list featuring 30 activity ideas for secondary school children. 18,000 activity packs were printed for youngsters to take home from clubs and continue getting active, learning, and having fun at home, plus the packs were available to download for free online. Additionally, children could get stuck in with hours of online sessions, with 55 videos available as part of the Find Your Active YouTube takeover. Activities ranged from mini challenges, workouts and themed yoga sessions, to crafts sessions, story time and cooking tutorials.

One parent/guardian from Colchester, said: “My children loved all the activities. They had fun, grew in confidence, tried new things and interacted with other children. They enjoyed the food. It has kept them occupied & has been positive for their well-being. The summer holidays can be very tough at times as a single parent family. The scheme really has been a god-send for my children & me.”

One parent/guardian from Epping Forest, said: “All fantastic staff, really welcoming […] they interacted well with my teens, which is not easy. I was dreading school holidays, as I hate them being on gadgets and this helped me tremendously, as it enabled me to leave them with people I trusted and they me feel welcomed and happy to leave my children in their care.”

One parent/guardian from Basildon, said: “Fantastic club! My son thrives, it really helps his confidence and to manage his ADHD. He has made new friends, learnt new skills and [got active].”

Vicky Ford (MP for Chelmsford and Children’s Minister) said: The HAF […] gives those children, who normally wouldn’t have access to a great deal of activities during the summer, the chance to take part in really engaging activities, and that is so good for them – building their confidence, happiness and wellbeing. Also making sure that they are more ready to learn when they go back to school, so it’s great for education as well.”

The Active Essex team are now turning their focus to the October Half Term and Christmas holidays. For all the latest updates visit the Essex ActivAte page or head to the Essex ActivAte Facebook page.