“Please can we stay? We’re hungry.”
Dalmarnock Primary School headteacher Nancy Clunie had not recognised the little boy making this plea last summer. It turned out he was due to join the school after the holidays, so should technically have been excluded from the school’s summer food and education scheme.
But Ms Clunie did not turn the boy away. She says the impact on children like him at the school in Glasgow’s East End – where Professor Defeyter’s team saw a boost in attainment linked to its holiday scheme – has been “astonishing”.
“The biggest impact is we have happy parents who feel supported, and we have happy children,” says Ms Clunie.
The school is one of two in Glasgow taking part in Food, Family, Futures, a Children in Scotland pilot that began last summer.
Ms Clunie thought involving parents in the project was crucial, but was initially met with reluctance. The parents were won over by daily sessions, from about 10.30am to 2.30pm, that could start with servings of fruit and pancakes before moving on to fun family activities.
In the afternoon, children and parents split up to work on separate skills, with parents gaining access to counsellors, job-hunting advice and exercise classes.
One big change this summer is that families will prepare the lunchtime meals, to encourage social interaction, rather than the more formal meals served up by caterers when the project started.
Parents can also go on a beach trip. Parents in this area might not take children to the famous Glasgow Green park, despite it being on their doorstep, because they cannot afford to buy an ice cream, says Ms Clunie.
This year, despite a notional limit of 100 families, the scheme will accommodate the 168 who have signed up after positive feedback last year.
One mother told Ms Clunie: “I have connected more with my wee girl in the last four weeks than I have in the last 10 years.”