After-school clubs improve results of poorer pupils, research finds

According to research by NatCen Social Research, disadvantaged primary school pupils who take part in after-school clubs were found to achieve better results than those who did not attend such clubs.

The findings arrive as ministers have announced plans to use funding generated from a sugar tax on fizzy drinks to subsidise after-school activities.

The study analysed information on over 6,400 children in England taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study, which examined data on children born in 2000-01 from birth. The research was funded by the Nuffield Foundation and found that taking part in after-school clubs could play a significant role in closing the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their better off peers.

The research defined disadvantaged children as those whose family income was below the poverty line, or 60 per cent under the average household income.

The report said: "Compared with disadvantaged children who did not attend after-school club at the age of 11, those who attended after-school club one or two days per week had made significantly more progress than predicted.

"Those who attended an after-school club one day per week had, on average, a 1.7 point higher actual Key Stage 2 score than predicted based on their prior attainment and circumstances, while those who attended after-school club two days per week had on average a three point higher actual total point score than predicted."

The findings suggester poor children who attended after-school clubs developed better social, emotional and behaviour skills, with children from disadvantaged homes participating in the activities equally as much as those from affluent ones.

Nonetheless, the research indicated that the cost of membership of sports clubs, private tuition or music lessons meant that inequalities still persisted. It highlighted the expense of such activities is ‘not just the direct cost of the fees for the activity but also the associated cost of travel to and from the activity, the cost of uniforms, kit or materials e.g. instruments’.

Dr Emily Tanner, lead author of the report, said: "For children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, who have lower take-up of formal out-of-school activities, school-based clubs appear to offer an affordable and inclusive means of supporting academic attainment.

"The recent Budget announcement to direct money raised by the tax on sugary drinks towards funding sport and after-school activities suggests policymakers are recognising the wide-ranging benefits of these activities.

"After-school clubs, based on school premises, seem to be an easy vehicle for policymakers and educators to ensure that children have access to both the core curriculum and wider enriching activities."

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