An innovative app developed in Huddersfield is helping thousands of children from low income families access meals and activities during school holidays.

The ‘School’s Out!’ app has been so successful it will now be rolled out nationwide. Launched in 2019, it was the brainchild of Kirklees Youth Alliance (KYA), which provides support to a wide network of youth organisations across Kirklees, and was developed by Huddersfield-based digital design specialist, Torchbearer.

Parents using the app can book a wide range of sessions and activities during school holidays for their children that incorporate a nutritious meal, physical exercise and enrichment activities.

Last year alone, 85 organisations hosted more than 2,600 sessions that were attended by approximately 12,000 children and more than 28,000 nutritious meals were served.

Following this success, KYA and Torchbearer have now enlisted Yorkshire-based LCF Law to create a licensing model and agreements that will enable local authorities throughout the UK to start using School’s Out!

Left to right: Susan Greenwood, of Kirklees Youth Alliance, James Sarjantson, commercial and digital partner at LCF Law, and Pete Waugh, technical director at Torchbearer.

Pete Waugh, technical director at Torchbearer, said: “When KYA initially approached us with the idea for the Schools Out! app, we immediately knew it could be a big success.

“We’ve designed it with an easy-to-use booking system, so parents can book their children onto sessions quickly and easily. After the session, parents can send feedback and rate events.

“It’s also a centralised monitoring tool for the council’s Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) team, negating the need for them to collate information from scores of provider organisations for the Department for Education.

“Although there are off-the-shelf products available, this is the only HAF-specific, web-app product, optimised for use on mobile phones. It is bespoke and can be adapted depending on specific requirements, which also includes rebranding it if a local authority wants to call it a specific name.

“We’re now looking forward to rolling it out to other forward-thinking organisations and seeing it benefit even more children and their families throughout the UK.”

Kirklees School’s Out! App, designed by Torchbearer

Susan Greenwood, from KYA, said: “Although school holidays are a fun time for many, research shows some children are not only going hungry, but that they also regress during long holiday breaks in terms of learning and behaviour.

“In 2019 Kirklees Council provided KYA with funding to co-ordinate a local ‘Healthy Holidays’ programme and the idea for Schools Out! was born. It was an immediate success and in February 2020, KYA signed a three-year agreement with Kirklees Council to continue the programme.

“Then the pandemic hit and the number of children eligible for free school meals rose significantly. Footballer Marcus Rashford highlighted the plight of children going hungry in school holidays and that resulted in Kirklees receiving £1.7 million from the Government’s Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme, which provides healthy food and enriching activities to children, with free places for those on free school meals during the school holidays.

“This superseded our Healthy Holidays Programme and now means more children than ever in Kirklees benefit from the scheme, and this has made Schools Out! even more popular. To think that our initial idea now has the potential to go nationwide is a very exciting prospect.”

James Sarjantson, commercial and digital partner at LCF Law, said: “Schools Out! has been hugely beneficial to KYA, Kirklees Council and the thousands of families using it.

“We’ve worked closely with Torchbearer and KYA to create a series of agreements that enable Torchbearer to resell, test and lead the installations, as well as providing relevant technical support to new customers, whilst also ensuring that KYA benefit from the intellectual property rights that they have on the product.

“It’s a unique partnership and we’re looking forward to watching it develop and grow as more local authorities and end users sign up to use the app.

“We work with many IT and technology businesses in the local area, but few of those projects have the genuine and deep social impact that this one will have.”

The Government has now committed to providing a further three years of HAF funding from April 2022 which will see KYA continuing to support Kirklees Council with the 2022-23 programme and contributing to planning for 2023-25.

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