ENGLISH NEWS: Poverty stricken families and pensioners invited to spend Christmas Day at school

Volunteers and staff members will give up their time to serve the feast on Christmas Day. Credit: David Hill.

A HEARTWARMING gesture has been made by a school in England, where struggling families and pensioners have been invited to a Christmas feast.

Park Community School in Portsmouth has decided to remain open on the national public holiday and what is a special day for most people across the world. Instead they will serve up turkey and all the trimmings for free to approximately 60 children, alongside their families and elderly residents.

The secondary school has a catchment area in one of the city’s most deprived neighbourhoods and are known for going the extra mile to help those who need it the most. As well as having significant levels of need, the school was once home to the largest council estate in Europe.

Teachers have put their hands in their pockets to help pay for the Christmas meal, along with donations from local residents and well-wishers. Volunteers will also be on hand to give out presents to the children which have been kindly donated from businesses in the area.

This is the second year that the school has laid on a traditional Christmas feast, with Headteacher Christopher Anders explaining why they have decided to repeat the special event this year. In a post on Facebook on behalf of the school he said that the festive season brings pressures for families on low incomes, and at least on Christmas Day those working at the school will know that children and pensioners have been well fed. He added:

“For some it is the only proper traditional dinner they will be getting. The focus is on doing the best for our children and trying to do all we can for the community. 

“For a number of our children the food they eat at school is really important to them, they may not eat something healthy at other points of the day.”

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Headteacher Christopher Anders hopes that no children in the area will go hungry on Christmas Day. Credit: David Hill.

The school already has an award-winning scheme to ensure that no child goes hungry during the holidays which has been hailed as a lifeline by many parents as ensures youngsters always have access to nutritious meals.

In response to the kind-hearted gesture, charities have praised the efforts of the school, however, the National Education Union said that although it is a fantastic initiative, it highlights “a frightening level of deep-rooted poverty.” Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said:

“Times are tough for families struggling to make ends meet and for some there will be a real shortage of Christmas cheer.

“It’s great that some schools are opening their doors to put on a festive celebration for the community and that children can enjoy themselves in a familiar environment – three cheers for them!

“However, we know that things have got really bad when it falls to schools, who themselves are facing cuts, to patch up the holes in the safety net.

“All children and their families should have an adequate income to be able to celebrate Christmas at home – it used to be possible to put away some cash every week for festivities, but incomes are now so low families can barely make ends meet week by week.

“If austerity is really over, there wouldn’t be the increasing child poverty and hardship we are witnessing as 2018 draws to a close.”

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Written by

Isha Sesay


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