IT WAS crackers at the ready for lucky guests attending the annual Christmas party at a Darlington school.

Nearly 180 grandparents of pupils and parents of staff, along with members of local care homes, enjoyed a delicious, full turkey dinner and all the trimmings at Longfield Academy, just before the school closed for the holidays.

Catering staff were in early to start preparing the meals which were served by 26 Year 11 Health and Social Care students, with some assistance from six teachers.

In addition to the fabulous meal, the student body donated treats to fill individual hampers for each guest to take home.

The afternoon was also a chance for pupils to showcase their talents as the visitors were entertained by singers, musicians, dancers, and actors, followed by a game of bingo and a free raffle.

Organiser Helen Frater, who teaches Health and Social Care, said: “The students have been fantastic. They look forward to it every year and are all happy to join in. They set up and decorated all the tables in the morning, and have worked really hard to make this a really special occasion for all the guests.”

Helping Helen was Assistant SENCO teacher, Julie Walker, who started as a student at the school in 1977, and remembers serving at her first Christmas party when she was in Year 11. She returned as a teacher in 1999 and has been involved with organisation of the annual party for the last five years.

For some of the guests this was their first time at the event, which has been running for more than 30 years. However, 96-year-old Albert Hill, a prolific author and previous governor at the school, has been enjoying the festive fun for at least ten years.

Head Teacher, Nick Lindsay, was full of praise for everyone who took part in the day. He said: “I’m really proud of the Health & Social Care students, and grateful to all the teachers and backstage staff for putting on the event.

“Longfield aims to be the beating heart in the North of Darlington and community events like these are central to our ethos as a public service."