'There is immense pressure' - How school is helping its families this Christmas
PUBLISHED: 10:43 21 December 2019 | UPDATED: 11:19 21 December 2019
Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk
The headteacher of an outstanding school in one of the county's most poverty-stricken areas has told of the hardship families can face in the run up to Christmas - and how the school does everything it can to help.
Mile Cross Primary Academy sits in the heart of a tight-knit, but economically deprived part of the county, just on the edge of Norwich and has more than 450 pupils.
Many of its families are faced with financial challenges that mean they are faced with the agonising choice between food on the table and presents under the tree at Christmas.
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And for this reason, Stuart Allen, headteacher at the academy, said staff had to carefully manage the expectations of children heading into the festive period.
He said: "There is such immense pressure on families for Christmas to be absolutely perfect. Thanks to things like television, there is this expectation that children that need to get dozens of presents, gifts and food for it to be a success which puts parents under tremendous strain this time of year.
"We have really made an effort to manage that expectation in our pupils, particularly in subjects like PSHE where we have really been pushing home to importance of giving and being kind to others at Christmas. I think it's really important that we can get this message across."
Mr Allen added: "We have to be really mindful of just how hard this time of year can be, so have been doing our best to signpost families to places they can get support outside of school hours - places like the Phoenix Centre - and making sure we are here to support them the best we can."
While many the pupils may wake up to the bare minimum on Christmas morning, none will be totally giftless, as fundraising from Soul Church, Norwich City Football Club and the YMCA saw all 465 children on the roll given a board game to open and play with their families.
Mr Allen said: "We have seen such generosity from members of the public. Just this week an anonymous donor sent £1,000 worth of gifts from Amazon to the school. It was an incredible surprise."