A SOMERSET primary school will open on Christmas Day to serve a hot meal to families who face financial hardship and those who struggle with loneliness.

Frome Town Football Club has hosted the Big Christmas Get-Together for eight years and this year the town's Christ Church CofE First School will also take part due to high demand.

The Big Christmas Get-Together provides free food, transport, gifts and entertainment for more than 100 people who are alone at Christmas.

The costs of the event are covered by donations and it is run by volunteers.

When Christ Church heard demand for the Frome Town FC event had "outstripped supply", headteacher Rupert Kaye offered the school hall as an extra venue.

Christ Church said it will join the effort this year not just to help combat loneliness but also "the modern-day curses of food and energy poverty".

Mr Kaye said some families in Frome cannot afford to heat or light their homes during the day, even during the winter months.

He said: "That means that some children will actually spend some days in the dark, huddled under a duvet.

"We also know that some children will not eat a hot home-cooked meal for the whole of the two-week Christmas break."

The school currently has 30 guests booked to attend its event and they will receive a three-course Christmas lunch. Frome Town FC will be at full capacity with 110 guests.

Mr Kaye added: "In addition, several school staff have already volunteered to come in on Christmas Day to set up, help out and tidy away afterwards."

Christ Church School is based in one of the most deprived neighbourhoods in Somerset and the number of pupils receiving free school meals has risen from 40% to 51% in just 18 months, Mr Kaye said.

"It is not what people would expect with a market town such as Frome," he said.

"But food has gone up in price, fuel has gone up in price, most people are paying more for their rent and where people are working their income hasn't kept in place with inflation."

In a national survey, half of teachers said students in their school would go hungry this Christmas and 46% said "holiday hunger" had worsened since 2015, according to the National Education Union (NEU).

Kevin Courtney, joint general-secretary of the NEU, said: "Many children this Christmas will be left with no support or food. Schools will be sending children home with food parcels and some will be opening on Christmas Day.

"This is not a problem that will go away and it is not a problem that will be resolved by spending some money over the summer holidays. The root causes of poverty must be addressed."

Mr Kaye said he expects the Christmas lunch at Christ Church will be even more popular in 2019 when word of mouth goes round that the school will be open and providing hot meals.

- The NEU polled 1,026 secondary and primary school teachers between November 23-26.