Christmas in a bag arrives early for Billericay school

Dozens of young people across Essex with social and emotional health issues will enjoy a better Christmas thanks to a pioneering initiative by a Billericay school and last-minute help from Essex Freemasons.

“Christmas in a bag,” essential basic items such as toothbrushes and clothing, can now be given to students at Ramsden Hall Academy, thanks to a £3,300 grant from the Essex Freemasons Community Fund supported from Masons who are members of Southend-on-Sea Lodge.

The initiative had been in doubt following the loss of sponsorship from local businesses affected by Covid-19. That would have meant that some students, many from families on the edge of poverty, would have had nothing for Christmas.

“It is literally Christmas in a bag for these young people,” said Emma Baker, head teacher at Ramsden Hall Academy. “As well as suffering from social and emotional health issues some of these young people have very little. Some arrive at our school from families that are really struggling in the current pandemic – so we are trying to provide more than just basics and some goodies for them to enjoy at Christmas. I am extremely grateful to Essex Masons for providing such generous funds.”

Ramsden Hall Academy is a residential special school for boys aged 10 to 16 who have an Education, Health and Care Plan for Social, Emotional and Mental Health. It admits up to 100 boys from across the whole county.

The Academy has a remarkable record of success working with students who have mostly been excluded for various reasons, which means that Ramsden Hall is frequently the only place left for boys who have struggled with mainstream education.

Tony Hodgson, Charity Steward for Southend-on-Sea Lodge, commented: “Our Lodge was approached by the Academy for help via my son Ryan who is a teacher at Ramsden Hall. There was apparently no funding available to pay for Christmas in a bag.”

“We as a Lodge could only provide £500 so we asked for further help from the Essex Freemasons Community Fund to make up the difference and they immediately agreed to find the balance needed.”

The money was handed over in earlier in the month so that the initiative could go ahead and on Friday December 11th Head Teacher Emma Baker invited Masons from Southend-on-Sea Lodge together with Assistant Provincial Grand Master Charles Elliott, to see how the money had been spent.

“This is an incredible project that will help so many young people,” said Charles Elliott. “I am delighted that Essex Freemasons have been able to make a difference and is another good example of what we do to help the community.”