Over 600,000 children attended free, government-funded Holiday Activities and Food clubs this summer, including over 495,000 eligible for free school meals - and new data shows the impact Breakfast Clubs have had on children around the country.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi reflects on the benefits of Breakfast and Holiday Activities and Food clubs:
Christmas is such a magical time of year especially for kids. But you don't have to be a parent to know that it can also be a very stressful time too.
For those who are trying to make house budgets stretch, it can be the last thing they need. Presents, food, keeping kids entertained... the extra costs quickly mount up. And that's even before you start to factor in the extra childcare if parents are working.
I know every parent wants to give their children the best possible Christmas and I am very glad that we have been able to help them do so.
We have been running our Holiday Activities and Food programme to give a helping hand to those families who find managing over holiday periods a challenge.
These free holiday clubs are such a brilliant idea, and I am so proud that my department runs them because they can make a huge difference to children's wellbeing and overall health. They can give parents some peace of mind too.
Any child that's eligible for free school meals can join one this Christmas. It means hot and nutritious food and a full programme of activities that kids will really enjoy. It gets them out of them of the house and into a safe environment where they can learn and let off steam with others at the same time. For some of these more vulnerable children, this safe and happy environment outside of the school term will be particularly important, providing contact and allowing trained staff to keep an eye on them while they aren't in school.
The coronavirus has had a huge impact not only on children's learning but also their social development. Kids are supposed to grow up in a lively environment where they interact with others. It's not just essential for their mental wellbeing it helps put in place the social skills, resilience and character they'll need as they grow up.
More than 600,000 children took part in the summer programme, with many making new friends as a result. The children were able to learn new skills, be more active and eat more healthily, and all of this helps them to be ready to return to school after the holidays.
The programme is not just designed to help children though, it's just as much about helping their parents and we've seen from previous programmes like this one that many have enjoyed finding out about how families can eat more healthily.
A hungry child is never going to be a happy child and I want this Christmas to be a happy one for all our children.
Here, children in Halifax tell us about the fun they're having during the Christmas break:
For information on how to get involved and for full guidance on the HAF programme visit What you need to know about the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme - The Education Hub (blog.gov.uk).