School clubs are an essential part of a child’s education – they deliver beyond the realm of the academic and enable students to dabble in areas of interest outside the curriculum and to build personal and technical skills that they might not otherwise have opportunities to develop.
Michael Ledzion, founder and CEO of social enterprises Sports for Schools and Clubs for Schools, discusses the benefits of clubs and how schools can ensure they have an attractive offering for parents and students
Research commissioned by Clubs for Schools found one third of parents would consider moving their children to another school if they felt that the provision of extra-curricular activities and after-school clubs was inadequate – that’s around 100 families in a typical 2-form entry school making decisions based on extra-curricular clubs.
While Ofsted’s 2016 framework includes more emphasis on extra-curricular activities, there is little or no consistency across schools – it ranges from no provision at all to an outstanding provision paid for entirely by the school.
The benefits of extra-curricular clubs
Studies such as The Impact of After-School Programs that Promote Personal and Social Skills, have shown that the benefits of extra-curricular activities include:
- higher academic achievement;
- new friends and the associated benefits;
- better organisation and time management;
- improved behaviour;
- new skills;
- greater fitness levels;
- discovery of new activities which help pupils develop their individual interests and curiosities;
- development of a sense of responsibility.
A professor of psychology from Yale University, Joseph Mahoney, found that those children who participated in after-school clubs were less likely to be affected by depressed moods. This was particularly true for those with poor relationships with their parents, who benefited from the support of after-school activity leaders.
The Clubs for Schools survey showed that 60% of parents expect extra-curricular activities to be fun, 37% expect their children to learn a new skill, while a similar number believe they improve their children’s confidence.
Interestingly, the most under-provided activities according to parents are martial arts (wanted by 30%) and cookery (25%). Parents of girls are making most requests for mainstream sports activities.
An increasing number of studies show that physical activity is, in most cases, more effective than medication for mental health issues so the fact that 40% of parents report that their children do the majority of their weekly physical exercise within extra-curricular clubs demonstrates their importance.
Of course, the concern remains that over 80% of children do not achieve the basic minimum seven hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity recommended by the WHO and by the UK’s chief medical officers. Indeed, across the population, more people die early from inactivity than from smoking-related illnesses.
Link to academic results
Recent advances in brain science underscore the importance of clubs. A strong connection has been made between physical fitness and academic results. Last year researchers from the University of Granada confirmed that physical fitness in children is linked in a direct way to important brain structure differences, and such differences are reflected in the children’s academic performance.
Rather than viewing extra-curricular clubs as yet another burden on schools they should be viewed as co-curricular activities that enhance the educational and developmental journey of pupils. As such, they represent a significant opportunity for schools and pupils.
The Clubs for Schools research found 36% of parents rely on clubs for wraparound care and 76.5% of parents believe extra-curricular clubs help children’s health and wellbeing; 60% of parents want schools to increase the number of clubs available.
How schools can save time and money
There are a number of challenges schools face when organising their clubs. These can include staffing, admin, safeguarding, class cover and space. Here are a few simple steps to help save time and maximise engagement.
- Evaluate the spaces available. Usually that’s the hall, playground and/or field, but some creative thinking will usually bring other spaces into play.
- Ask parents what they’d like, and when. Minority sports are the way to appeal to the less sporty. A simple Google form will do to collate the information.
- Price is critical. However, pupil and sports premium monies can be used to subsidise, or fully pay for, clubs. Remember, parents are generally willing to contribute, so experiment – ask and discover the price point for your school’s catchment.
- Hire a specialist. Consider employing a full-time specialist head of PE/sports, or other teachers, who have a specific responsibility for delivery of clubs.
- Streamline management. Simplify the admin using portals such as Clubs for Schools to eliminate delivery costs and overcome office admin objections. These will also aggregate attendance and attainment, so you can set objectives and track against them.