A SKIPTON mother has spoken of how a council-funded activities programme for children in the school holidays has made a huge difference to her and her children's lives.

FEAST is coordinated by North Yorkshire Together, with North Yorkshire Council receiving funding from the Department for Education. Bookings are now open for the Easter holidays, from March 25 to April 8, with thousands of free places available across the county.

It is open to all children and young people in Craven, and those who are eligible can attend for free and also receive a hot meal or packed lunch.

Finding something to do with the children in the school holidays can be tricky for most families. What is more, keeping an autistic child occupied, alongside a sibling who is not neurodivergent, is a real challenge. Fortunately, Skipton resident Sarah Brearley found the perfect solution in FEAST.

Miss Brearley’s 11-year-old son Teddy attends a special needs school to support him with his autism. When his after-school club shared information about FEAST activities during the holidays, she looked into it straight away.

She said: “With Teddy, keeping him in that daily routine of 9am to 3pm during the school holidays gives him some stability and rhythm, making the transition from and back to school less disruptive.”

Miss Brearley signed Teddy up for Kanga Sports, in Skipton, where he has been able to take part in a range of fun activities with other children his age. The impact on Teddy was huge.

She added: “For Teddy to go somewhere and feel entirely accepted, he could be himself and we didn’t see any negative behaviours. The team at Kanga were absolutely brilliant – they’re really geared up for active kids who want to run around all day.”

Meanwhile, her 10-year-old daughter, Nala, chose to go to Wild Explorers, near Skipton, where she took part in outdoor activities in the woods. Nala attends mainstream school, which Miss Brearley said played a big part in their decision to split the siblings up.

“The kids aren’t used to spending huge amounts of time together, and during the holidays if we don’t have activities planned, they fight,” she said. “This way, the kids were able to do something they both enjoyed, separately, and they got on so much better afterwards.

“They both came home more confident and keen to show each other what they had learned.”

North Yorkshire Together’s strategic director, Max May, said: “We’re grateful to the Brearleys for sharing their story, which highlights the profound impact that FEAST can have on families.

"We’re thrilled to see how FEAST is providing vital support to children like Teddy and Nala, offering them opportunities for growth, confidence and joy during the school holidays. As we approach Easter, we’re committed to reaching even more families across North Yorkshire, ensuring that as many children and young people as possible have the chance to participate and benefit from the great opportunities FEAST has to offer.”

North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for education, learning and skills, Cllr Annabel Wilkinson, said: “The FEAST programme is making a real difference to the lives of young children and their parents/carers across the county.

“Since its launch in Easter 2021, thousands of children have already taken part in previous programmes over the summer, Christmas and Easter periods, with many families reporting that the clubs are a lifeline. If your family is eligible, please don’t miss out on this great opportunity for your children.”

Eligible families across North Yorkshire will receive information about FEAST and a voucher to book their free place via their school. More details are available at https://northyorkshiretogether.co.uk/feast