The value of extracurricular activities

Extracurricular activities can play an incredibly important role in a student’s educational journey. They give children and young people the chance to explore beyond their classrooms, providing them with the opportunities to discover new interests and learn new skills. 

Another significant benefit is that they provide wraparound care for children and young people, benefitting working parents/carers as well as the students who attend the extracurricular clubs.

However, it is important to recognise that not all students have equal access to these opportunities. Disadvantaged children often find themselves on the periphery, missing out on the numerous benefits that extracurricular activities offer. So schools must find strategies to open up access to all students, so their background or current circumstances does not impede them.

The benefits of extracurricular activities

A study published in the Economics of Education Review by Stephen Lipscombe found that when it came to extracurricular activities, athletic participation is associated with a 2 percent increase in maths and science test scores. Club participation is associated with a 1 percent increase in maths test scores, and involvement in either type of activity is associated with a five percent increase in Bachelor’s degree attainment expectations.

It’s absolutely crucial however, to not make the mistake of approaching these extra-curricular activities solely as a support for subjects on the mainstream curriculum. Each one has their own intrinsic value and can spark an interest or uncover a passion which students carry with them for years to come, either simply as a pastime, or something that influences their choice of a profession in later life. 

Paradigm’s core principle is that its curriculum prepares pupils to lead fulfilling lives and to play an active, positive and productive role in our democratic society. In essence, the value of extracurricular activities lies in the holistic development they offer, contributing to well-rounded individuals ready to face the challenges of the future.

Extracurricular activities often provide an opportunity for the cultivation of social skills and teamwork. Whether through sports teams, games clubs, music ensembles or other activities, students learn to collaborate, communicate effectively, and appreciate the importance of collective effort. These experiences have the potential to not only contribute to personal growth but also prepare students for the collaborative nature of the world of work.

Taking part in extracurricular activities is also a positive way for children and young people to build cultural capital. Participation exposes students to a variety of new experiences and environments, and this exposure can help them develop a broader understanding of different cultures, perspectives, and ways of life. Participating in arts, music, drama and other creative activities can allow students to express themselves and develop an appreciation for various forms of cultural expression. This exposure enhances their cultural capital by fostering creativity and aesthetic awareness.

Finally, clubs can also encourage pupils’ attendance, as they provide something additional that a pupil may look forward to coming to at school.

Removing barriers

As many extracurricular activities come with a fee, cost can be prohibitive for some students. To mitigate this at Paradigm some schools work with organisations such as Magic Breakfast Clubs which allow them to reduce the cost significantly. Others pool resources with nearby schools and run activities jointly, making them more cost-effective for families and schools alike. And through Paradigm’s Hinterland programme activities such as music lessons are subsidised and supported in a way that both reduces costs and also encourages more pupils to take part. 

As noted above, extracurricular activities can act as wraparound care, benefitting working parents, however the reverse can also be true. Pupils may have responsibilities at home outside school hours which prevent them from staying late, such as looking after younger siblings, or the parents themselves. Or the early start / late finish may not fit with times parents can do the school run. To accommodate this, schools across the Trust hold many clubs during lunch breaks, which gives students who are unable to stay after hours the chance to enjoy extracurricular activities. The Hinterland curriculum also moves some experiences which would be extra-curricula in many schools into the full curriculum, making them accessible to all.

By having a wide range of extracurricular activities on offer, children and young people have access to learning and experiences they may not receive otherwise, helping them become more rounded individuals for the future. And by putting measures in place to overcome barriers and help every child access them, we can make the biggest difference in pupils’ lives.

Last updated April 9, 2024