HARD working pupils were rewarded for their lockdown endeavours with a chocolate surprise sprung on them by a local dignitary.

Chocolate and cookie confectionary was presented to school children at Beaumont Hill Academy, part of the Education Village, in recognition of how well they had coped with the pandemic restrictions, particularly as they have additional educational needs.

The windfall was organised by Darlington’s MP Peter Gibson with the support of Company Shop, which recently opened a store in the town’s Haughton Road.

The company specialises in the redistribution of surplus food and household products sourced directly from manufacturers and retailers that may otherwise go to waste.

A membership organisation, it is open to anyone working in the food industry, armed forces, emergency services, carers and education offering discounts of up to 50 per cent.

Head of strategic relationships Sally Wake said: “We intervene to stop food going to waste and to ensure it reaches people’s plates. Peter had opened our 12th store and mentioned Beaumont Hill Academy, a school close to his heart.”

Mr Gibson said: “I have done a lot of work with Beaumont Hill and Company Shop are fantastic at providing affordable food so I was delighted to bring together both organisations this way.”

Beaumont Hill Academy assistant head teacher Nicole Garstin said the chocolate treat was very welcome and richly deserved.

“We are extremely proud of our children who continue to exceed our expectations and give us all a sense of hope and worth,” she said. “They have adapted and accepted change and persevered with challenging themselves physically and academically throughout the pandemic, with great support from parents and carers.

“This is a very kind gesture by Peter and Company Shop and I’m sure the children will be delighted with their chocolate.”

Company Shop Group operates an award-winning social enterprise, Community Shop, that aims to build stronger individuals and communities. Its three connected spaces – Community Store, Community Hub and Community Kitchen – also provides members with access to life-changing learning and development programmes and is actively looking for premises in the Darlington area to open a new store.

Earlier, Beaumont Hill pupils took part in a Zoom video call with child poverty researcher and Darlington Borough Councillor Cyndi Hughes, who is gathering young people’s views of life in the pandemic.

They offered her advice she could share with other young people across the town on how best to cope with the upheaval.

Alfie Watson said: “You should ask your mum and dad if you are feeling worried and it’s best not to think about it too much and just get on with your school work.”

Sam Clark added: “It is important to stay in touch with all your friends and family so you and they don’t feel lonely.”