New research suggests that after-school clubs and sports can greatly improve the academic performance and social skills of disadvantaged elementary school students in the United Kingdom.
Funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the study discovered that taking part in activities after school can help to close the achievement gap between children who come from economically disadvantaged families and their more affluent peers.
For the purposes of the study, disadvantaged children were defined as those whose family income was below the poverty line, or 60% of the average household income, reports Katherine Sellgren for the BBC.
Study results found that poorer children who participated in after-school clubs were receiving higher results by age 11 than their peers who came from similar households but who did not take part in clubs or sports after the school day ended.
The report says: "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 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."
In addition, poor children who took part in after-school clubs were found to develop better social, emotional, and behavioral skills than their peers from similar economic backgrounds who did not participate in such activities.
Such results suggest that after-school activities can help to close the gap between rich and poor students, as children from each background participate in clubs and sports together.
Dr Emily Tanner of NatCen, who was the lead investigator for the study, said that after-school activities can help children to value school in new ways as they make positive relationships with staff members. She added that those children who may have had a negative experience in school have the opportunity to create positive experiences when participating in such activities, writes Javier Espinoza for The Telegraph.
However, inequalities were still found when observing the impact of after-school activities. Researchers suggest it mainly has to do with costs associated with each activity — not just the direct costs, but also traveling to and from events, uniforms, and any equipment needed.
"Another barrier to community-based, as opposed to school-based, activities may also be to do with the scheduling of activities in afternoons and the difficulties getting to and from and the travel time."
The study goes on to say that the findings should be taken into consideration by policymakers and practitioners as they work to improve educational enrichment. Researchers suggest that school-based clubs would be a helpful resource for poorer students because they would offer a low-cost option for learning experiences outside of school that could offer benefits not only academically, but also socially.
They add that additional research is needed in order to determine what it is about these clubs and activities that improve outcomes for the students who participate.
Researchers from NatCen Social Research, Newcastle University and ASK Research looked at information from over 6,400 students in England who participated in the Millennium Cohort Study, which has been following children born in 2000-01 from their birth.