Two in five secondary pupils don’t take part in extra-curricular activities

Two in five secondary pupils don’t take part in extra-curricular activities, report says

A new report by the Sutton Trust reveals that there is a “big mismatch” between pupil take-up of extra-curricular activities such as debating and volunteering in secondary schools.

These activities are considered to help develop the life skills regarded as essential by employers.

Across secondary schools in England, the research shows that 78 per cent of secondary school teachers surveyed by the National Foundation for Education Research say their school offers volunteering programmes to build their pupils’ life skills, but just eight per cent of pupils aged 11-16 in England and Wales surveyed by Ipsos MORI say they take part in these sorts of extra-curricular activities.

In addition, 45 per cent of secondary teachers said their school provided debating, yet just two per cent of pupils report taking part. Almost two in five secondary pupils (37 per cent) don’t take part in extra-curricular activities run by their school.

The new polling also finds there are big socio-economic gaps in access to extra-curricular activities, with pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds less likely to take up activities than their better-off peers (46 per cent compared to 66 per cent).

The ‘Life Lessons’ research looks at attitudes and provision of essential life skills through separate polling of teachers, employers, and young people.

It finds wide recognition of the importance of life skills, with 88 per cent of young people, 94 per cent of employers and 97 per cent of teachers saying that these are as or more important than academic qualifications.

More than half of teachers (53 per cent) surveyed by the National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) believe that life skills are more important than academic skills to young people’s success. Seventy-two per cent believe their school should increase their focus on teaching life skills.

Of the young people polled by Ipsos MORI, three-quarters believe that better life skills would help them get a job in the future (73 per cent), and 88 per cent say that these are as or more important than getting good grades.

However, only one in five (20 per cent) say that their school curriculum helps them to develop their life skills ‘a lot’.

In light of the report, the Sutton Trust has recommended that schools provide a “broad array of life skills within regular lessons and through extra-curricular activities like debating and volunteering” and that there should be a focus on increasing participation from those less well-off.

The Trust is also recommending that the government introduces a means-tested voucher – or encourages schools to do so – funded through the pupil premium, through which lower-income families could access additional support and enrichment.

The Trust also wants to see incentives and rewards for schools that actively develop their pupils’ essential life skills.

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