What are the Benefits of out of school activities?
Out of school activities are hugely popular with children, with around seven out of 10 11 year-olds taking part in at least one club or lesson (Tanner et al., 2016). Recent research funded by the Nuffield Foundation has shown how beneficial these activities can be for children. Taking part in physical activities at age 11 was associated with higher attainment (Key Stage 2 Maths and English scores) and better social, emotional and behavioural outcomes. Higher attainment was also linked with participation in miscellaneous clubs (these were not described in the data used but are thought to cover clubs such as Cub Scouts and Brownies, choir, arts, crafts, chess and drama).
It was also suggested that out-of-school activities may be important for closing the education gap between advantaged children (those with a household income of over £16,084) and disadvantaged children. Unfortunately, disadvantaged families are faced with more financial and logistical barriers (e.g. the time and cost associated with travelling to a club), which limits children’s access to out-of-school activities. The affordability of after school clubs however make them particularly popular with these families, and were the only activity significantly linked to higher attainment for disadvantaged children.
How to encourage participation in out of school activities
Tanner et al. (2016) carried out case study interviews with school staff, providers, parents and pupils to discover why school-based clubs are particularly popular. Parents said they valued the easy access, avoiding the time and costs associated with travelling; therefore, a local setting such as a school can make a club more appealing. They also liked that they had a sense of trust in the staff and confidence in the safety of the environment, something that perhaps isn’t as easy to find out when looking into other clubs.
Many parents assume that children’s activities are controlled and assessed by an official department such as Ofsted. However, there are actually no rules or regulations for running a club; anyone can decide to set up a club with no quality control (such as for teaching or health and safety) carried out by an independent body.
The Children’s Activities Association (CAA; http://www.childrensactivitiesassociation.org/) aims to raise standards of children’s pre-school and extra curricular clubs by providing independent accreditation to providers, supported by Fundamentally Children. Clubs must work within the code of practice, which covers everything from health and safety to ensuring the programme delivered is developmentally beneficial and age appropriate.
This gives parents greater peace of mind as they can be assured that the provider has put full consideration into the child’s safety and their activity programme. Parents also know they are getting good value for money as the activities are designed to support development and staff are trained to deliver these activities at the best possible level.
Tanner, E., Chanfreau, J., Callanan, M., Laing, K., Paylor, J., Skipp, A. and Todd, L. (2016). Can out of school activities close the education gap? (Briefing Paper 4). Accessed at http://natcen.ac.uk/media/1216036/can-out-of-school-activities-close-the-education-gap.pdf