Leeds school staff praised for helping families in need during Covid
School staff ran a "military operation" dropping off clothes, food and toiletries in a minibus to families in need during the pandemic, a senior leader has said.
Stuart Huddleston, who was associate principal at Temple Moor High School in east Leeds when schools were forced to close their doors due to Covid-19, said staff saw a surge in requests for support from parents.
Struggling families asked the school for cash to help pay their gas and electricity bills - which they had to refer to their "extended services teams" so they could provide assistance, he said.
Mr Huddleston, who was at Temple Moor High School until Easter this year, told the PA news agency: "More people were out of work than ever before, especially the lower-skilled workforce.
"They were just out of work with no sort of safety net of the furlough so they had no money, and obviously they needed some more support so that increased significantly."
He added that parent support workers, counsellors and wellbeing workers "were doing consultations in gardens" to provide families with support.
Mr Huddleston said: "We could provide clothing because we were able to buy basics, toiletries, shampoos, deodorants and sanitary products.
"We provided all of those for our families because we could go and purchase them and put them in the parcels that we were delivering.
"We had boxes in school for those who could come and collect them and we had the school minibus driving around and dropping off on doorsteps for those that couldn't collect.
"It was a bit of a military operation in all honesty."
He added: "It wasn't just pupil premium families who were calling out for help. The funding didn't really cover it, but it was a survival mentality for schools. You just had to provide.
"I think potentially a lot of schools are still struggling on the back of that."
Mr Huddleston, who is now principal at Temple Learning Academy in Leeds, where two thirds of the children are eligible for pupil premium funding, said he believes the coronavirus pandemic has "hit the lowest income families the most".
At the school, families who need support are provided with uniforms and staff clean pupils' uniforms on site if parents do not have their own washing facilities.
He told PA: "We've got wardrobe after wardrobe of uniforms that we provide for children.
"We've got a washing machine and a dryer and we wash them for them."
Mr Huddleston added: "There are always a lot of low-income families that we serve here. I think it is going to remain."
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