Council ready to roll out Club 365 project

Councillor Frank McNally
Councillor Frank McNally

A ground-breaking initiative providing free meals and activities at weekends and holidays will be rolled out across North Lanarkshire within this financial year.

North Lanarkshire Council’s Club 365 programme is for primary-age pupils who are entitled to free school meals and aims to tackle weekend and holiday hunger.

It will begin with an expansion into Bellshill and Wishaw following a successful trial in Coatbridge over the spring break where parents and pupils were overwhelmingly positive about the experience.

Councillor Frank McNally, convener of Education, said: “It is a sad reality that one in five children in North Lanarkshire live in poverty.

“School holidays and weekend periods can place significant strain on the budgets of many families and research has shown this has a knock-on effect on school attainment with subsequent implications for a child’s life-prospects.

“Club 365 won’t solve these problems overnight, but the evaluation of our trial has shown it does make a significant difference to families who need it most.

“This council has made tackling child poverty a key priority and we have made a commitment that we will roll out this programme across our communities within this financial year.”

Pupils who took part in the trial project also enjoyed multi-sports games and fun activities.

Isabelle Boyd, assistant chief executive - Education, Youth and Communities, said: “The next phase will be a summer programme running from June 29-August 14.

“Club 365 will be offered in nine hubs with each providing three hours of play and learning activities to eligible children.”

North Lanarkshire is one of the nine “challenge authorities” in Scotland with the highest levels of deprivation. Nearly 21 per cent of children live in low income households.

The Scottish Government has recognised the potential impact the programme could have in terms of attainment and has agreed, in principal, to support it through the Scottish Attainment Challenge initiative.

The programme will eventually cover the 175 days of the year when pupils are not at school during weekends and school holidays, making it the most comprehensive in the UK.