A church in Winchester has opened its doors for students to spend the day there as schools closed due to strike action in England and Wales.

Wednesday 1 February was the biggest day of walkouts in more than a decade, with up to half a million workers – including teachers as well as train and bus drivers – taking to the streets to demand better pay and conditions.

About 25 children spent the day at Christ Church in Winchester, taking part in activities such as team challenges, sports, tournaments and board games. A quiet area was also provided for those who wanted to do schoolwork.

Dave Thornton, the church’s youth worker, told YCW  they wanted to provide a “warm, safe space” for young people so they wouldn’t spend the day on their own.

“We are very aware that many young people are struggling with mental health. The NHS said last year that 18 percent of seven to 16-year-olds have a probable mental health disorder. And that figure rose to just over 25 percent for 17 to 19-year-olds.

“With all that background, we were wanting to provide just a safe, friendly, smiling place for young people to come,” he continued.

Asked whether he would encourage other churches to follow suit, he said places of worship should make sure they work together with teachers to avoid undermining the strikes.

“I think it’s really important that they talk to the teachers about it as well. I think if we’re going to run something like this, we’ve got to do it really carefully. So we made sure that in all of our advertising, we were very careful about how we worded things. So for us, the main issue is that we’re providing a safe and warm place for young people.”

The church is planning to run another youth drop-in during the next teachers’ strike planned for Wednesday 15 March.