December 2018

Reverse Advent calendar reveals students’ compassion for others

Students at Withernsea High School have been praised for helping to collect over 100kg of food which has been donated to Hull’s main food bank in order to help some of the region’s most vulnerable people this Christmas.

The donations came on the back of a ‘reverse Advent calendar’ which saw each Tutor Group in Years 8 to 11 challenged with bringing in up to 24 items of food by the end of the school term. 

For most people, both young and old, a traditional Advent calendar is an essential component in the build-up to Christmas. By the time the 24th window is opened on Christmas Eve, the excitement is palpable for the festivities ahead – with expensive presents and traditional Christmas dinner only a matter of hours away. 

It is, however, sometimes all too easy to forget that for some families Christmas is a real struggle. An increasing number of people in our region and beyond, for various reasons, have the necessity to use food banks on a regular basis.

For the most vulnerable members of society, the festive season brings with it additional pressure to provide things which many people take for granted.

Even a basic Advent calendar can seem like a luxury, which is why students at Withernsea High School have this year spent December working on a ‘reverse’ calendar – an initiative which is gaining momentum around the country.

Reverse calendars aim to balance out the increasing commercialisation of Christmas by taking the celebration back to its core values of giving unconditionally, spreading goodwill and showing compassion for others.  

Dr Emma Finer, Progress Leader for Key Stage 4, was prompted to roll the idea out in school after seeing it work for friends and family. Assisted by Andrea Monaghan, Progress Leader for Key Stage 3, the duo set about delivering assemblies to students and organising the collection.

Dr Finer commented: ‘I thought the concept of a reverse Advent calendar was a really good and accessible way for our students, and the wider school community, to get involved in charity. Not only does it help spread awareness of those who are less fortunate, but it also provides a fast and effective way of directly helping people.

Our students fully engaged with the project from the start and have done fantastically well to collect so many items. These will really make a difference to the people who will benefit from them. Thank you to everyone who donated.’

A total of 106kg was collected. In real terms, this is enough to help around 20 people put food on their tables for anywhere between three days and a week.
Hull’s foodbank, a registered charity, is part of the Trussell Trust’s UK-wide foodbank network. The trust runs a network of over 420 foodbanks, which work out of more than 1,200 centres across the UK, providing emergency food to people referred for support. In the last year, their network gave 1,332,952 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis.

Thanks to the generosity of the Withernsea High School community, it is not just people who will benefit this Christmas. A substantial amount of pet foods and blankets were also collected which will be donated to the Hull Animal Welfare Trust. Based in South Cave, the trust helps to rescue and rehome, on average, around 1,000 animals a year. With the old saying “a dog is for life, not just for Christmas” in mind, it was an easy decision to include support for pets as part of the overall project.  

The success of this Christmas’ calendar has already set the wheels in motion for future collections which will form part of the wider body of charity work that the school is proud to take part in annually. 

For further information about Hull Foodbank or the Hull Animal Welfare Trust, please visit their websites:

Hull Foodbank:

Hull Animal Welfare Trust:

ABOVE: Dr Emma Finer (Progress Leader for Key Stage 4), organiser of the reverse Advent calendar.

Students from across the school who helped to collect over 100kg of items.