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During school holidays, it can become harder for some children and young people to socialise and access opportunities to be active.
As a community sports club or group, your organisation might be uniquely placed to help children and young people (CYP) and their families to participate in sport and physical activity, socialise and enjoy themselves during the school holidays. Developing a holiday programme offer for local CYP has a number of benefits to attendees and to your organisation.
Benefits to CYP and their families
- It helps reduce social isolation outside of school.
- It supports CYP to get or remain active outside of school, which they might not be otherwise. Incorporating family activities within your holiday programme can help extend this to parents and siblings as well. Check out our ‘Creating a family offer’ page for more information.
- Being social and active can both help to support positive mental wellbeing in CYP.
- It offers a routine and consistency, which is especially important for attendees, particularly those from less stable homes.
- It reduces pressure on parents/carers and families during school holidays, especially if you are able to offer food as part of your programme.
- If done right, it can be the first step to getting non-active CYP participating long-term and creating healthy habits.
Benefits to your organisation
- A holiday programme can help you to reach a new pool of potential participants and volunteers – not just attendees, but their family members too.
- It can help you to increase engagement with your local community, especially through developing new partnerships. For example, working with schools or other youth groups to promote your offer could create stronger community links.
- There are funding opportunities available to support organisations to offer free programmes for children and young people, especially if offering food.
Holiday programmes can be a valuable way for sports organisations to give back to the community. If your organisation is considering running a holiday programme, we have set out some hints, tips and things to think about below.
Once you have agreed your approach, think about who you want to reach and what they might need from your offer. It is important to design your offer to meet the needs of your target audience and their families. This might vary based on whether you are charging fees for your holiday programme or offering activities for free.
- If there is an attendance fee, parents/carers are likely to expect structured delivery with an emphasis on improving skills in a specific sport.
- If your sessions are free and you would like to attract attendees from lower income families, being able to offer food as part of the programme will be popular. There may be cost attached to this for your organisation, but it could also be an opportunity to create partnerships with local businesses that could provide food in return for promotion or sponsorship opportunities. Offer nutritious snacks and meals and consider including some nutrition education or information as part of your programme.
- The atmosphere of all holiday programmes, regardless of whether there is a fee or not, should be enjoyable, fun, relaxed and with a strong social element to keep attendees engaged. Also, being able to give children and young people their own choice of activities can be very popular.
- Timings and flexibility can also feed into keeping people engaged. For example, older children and teens might not want to attend morning sessions but working parents of younger children might need activities to start early. Consult with attendees and families on an ongoing basis to make sure you’re meeting their needs.
Making sure your holiday offer has an open, enjoyable and safe environment is key to keeping attendees engaged and reassuring parents and families. Think about ways to ensure everyone feels welcome and included, such as having staff or volunteers on hand to greet attendees and any family members on arrival, or creating a buddy system so attendees can get to know each other.
Keeping kit and equipment needs to a minimum will help to make sure nobody feels left out or can’t attend if they don’t have the ‘right’ things with them. Some attendees might arrive without sports clothing at all, so just make sure your workforce is able to adapt delivery without singling anyone out.
As with any other activities or operations for your organisation, safeguarding is essential to a holiday programme. Make sure you consider in depth how you will extend your existing safeguarding practices to attendees, and how you will ensure that they and their parents are aware of your policies and procedures – especially if they haven’t been involved with your club or group before. You could also look to create referral pathways through links with local schools, who may be able to provide relevant information about specific attendees to ensure robust safeguarding.
It is really important to make sure you promote your offer well before the school holidays. Partnering with schools themselves can be a really useful way to get the word out to CYP and their families. You can also explore other social and community channels to help. For example, posting on Facebook, including on any local community pages, can help to reach parents and family members as well as arranging promotion in any local newsletters or papers.
Make sure your communications accurately reflect your holiday offer. For example, if you are taking a paid, sports-camp approach, include the price and an overview of what parents/carers can expect for their fees. If offering a free programme, make sure this is very clear – it can also be useful to highlight whether kit or equipment is required or not, and if food is being provided. Additionally, your offer should match up with how it has been marketed when people arrive. For example, if you promoted a multi-sport offer but can only offer one or two activities in reality, this might lead to people dropping out.