If your family is like ours in the run-up to the school holidays, there can be something of a scramble to find activities (as well as copious snacks) to keep small people occupied. For people on lower incomes, things can be more difficult.

Social mobility academics also regularly identify that what happens out of school is a big factor in differences in outcomes for children of different backgrounds. For some children, holidays are a time of discovery and cultural enrichment while for others sadly they are not.

In recognition of this, the Department for Education created the ‘Holiday Activity & Food’ (or HAF for short) programmes, initially in the summer. These are kids’ clubs, free to qualifying lower-income families, run by different providers, organised by local authorities, and funded by central government.

It has been great to visit East Hants HAF sessions, and see the variety of what is on offer. This year HAF has run in the Easter holidays as well, and I recently visited a school in Southampton to see it in action.

A central feature of HAF, as the name suggests, is a nutritious meal alongside the activities. Many HAF programmes also include sessions on food preparation.

At the Southampton club, coaches from Hampshire’s ‘Southern Brave’ offer sessions on the basics of cricket – and you can join a cookery masterclass with a past Masterchef winner.

In East Hampshire, this Easter holidays, there were HAF spaces for up to 600 children.

Locally, Building 94 in Bordon is now the home to ‘Creative Form’ which has created a space for young people aged 11 to 16 to try their hand at creative arts and group cookery sessions as well as off-site activities including climbing, caving and canoeing.

These holiday activities can be really helpful for the development, health and well-being of children and young people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to get that opportunity.  It helps keep children active, and from an education perspective, keeps the good work achieved during term time going.

It is also a real help to parents, of course – firstly by presenting their children with that opportunity and being constructively engaged, and trying out new things.

But it also helps support parents in their own work, one of a number of initiatives that assist on that. 

The highest-profile of these is the large extension we are making to childcare entitlements for pre-schoolers. You can reclaim up to 85 per cent of childcare costs through Universal Credit. 

There are also now 775 breakfast club places in East Hants, and the government is increasing availability of after-school care in primaries from September.