‘Many of our children don’t get presents’: schools open over Christmas for families with nothing

Sammy will wake up on Christmas morning with little hope of a visit from Santa. He didn’t get a present last Christmas and it is unlikely he will get one this year, because his mother struggles just to put food on the table. But it is not all gloom for the lively eight-year-old. The Guardian reports.

Next Monday, 23 December, his school will reopen and the teachers and support staff will return, unpaid, to organise a huge “Christmas Eve Eve” party for the 350 pupils and their families. Kitchen staff will serve 800 Christmas dinners and each child will see Santa and get to unwrap a present bought by the school with money donated by businesses.

Chris Dyson, headteacher at Parklands primary school in Leeds, which serves one of the biggest council estates in England, says Christmas can be a confusing time for some children. “They see everyone making Santa lists and yet they don’t get anything they asked for,” he says. “We have children here who don’t get a present at Christmas or on their birthdays. When I came here five years ago I found very few children had been to see Santa. It broke my heart. I wanted to give them a dream, a hope, and show how invested I am in them, even in holiday times.”

Over in Blackpool, Stephen Tierney, executive director of a small multi-academy trust consisting of St Mary’s, a Catholic secondary school, and two primary schools, Christ the King and St Cuthbert’s, says schools have become “the fourth emergency service” for families in crisis – because there is nothing else. 

“Heads in Blackpool will tell you stories of family after family who make it clear there is no money for Christmas presents this year and there were no presents last year,” he says. “It is hard to comprehend the hopelessness these parents feel. That is where schools come in. Should we have to? No, but if we don’t, then who will?”

Read the full article ‘Many of our children don’t get presents’: schools open over Christmas for families with nothing 

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