An (unintended) knock-on effect of the recent reform of GCSEs, the reality of funding cuts, and the ever-looming spectre of Ofsted has been that school clubs – part of the fabric of school life in the UK for decades – have been squeezed out somewhat.
Of course, they haven’t disappeared completely; it’s just that many extra-curricular activities have been replaced by extra lessons, revision sessions and interventions.
For many pupils, the only ‘extra’ to their ‘normal’ 25-hour curriculum diet is a choice of extra Maths, Science or Maths.
And, actually, there’s no ‘choice’ at all; it tends to be compulsory!
School clubs are an essential part of a child’s education
School clubs should be valued as an absolutely essential part of a child’s education.
Naturally, exam results and academic performance will always be important.
It’s the set of exam results that a young person leaves school with that go a long way in determining which doors are opened for them in the future.
Having said that, there will always be a considerable proportion of any school cohort that are not particularly academically gifted (or minded).
This shouldn’t be seen as a problem or a weakness.
It is something to be embraced.
However, the narrowing of a curriculum and a focus on all things academic has resulted – essentially – in doors of opportunity being slammed shut in the faces of many youngsters.
For these young people, school clubs can be a safety valve.
It is here that they are able to dabble and experiment in potential areas of interest.
It’s only here that they can go beyond a stifling, repressive curriculum which is not fit for purpose for thousands and thousands of teenagers.
The school club environment is where young people can build the personal and technical skills that they might not otherwise have the chance to develop.
It’s often where the talent of the country’s sportspeople, musicians, actors and creative minds is cultivated and nurtured.
But, hey, being able to write a ‘Grade 5’ exam response on a 18th century poet is more important that all of that, right?
The benefits of extra-curricular clubs
The benefits of extra-curricular activities and wide ranging.
From developing better time management and organisation skills to greater fitness skills, it’s nigh on impossible to construct a counter-argument against extra-curricular clubs.
What’s more, participation in school clubs is often linked to improving behaviour in schools.
It certainly helps with motivation – and the correlation between school clubs and higher academic achievement is undeniable too.
But we shouldn’t have to justify the existence of extra-curricular school clubs by highlighting how they can boost academic performance.
Schools should be about experiences not examinations.
Research suggests that parents are very appreciative of what school clubs offer.
Indeed, a survey conducted by Clubs for Schools found that 36% of parents actually rely on school clubs for wraparound care.
There’s also a strong business case for schools to provide an extra-curricular programme.
Many parents would willingly pay for many activities.
Of course, the issue of payment moves the discussion into a different debate.
To put things simply though, when over 75% of parents say they believe that extra-curricular clubs help children’s health and wellbeing, that should be reason enough to ensure that school clubs are given priority in all schools.
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2- The role of extracurricular activities in a student's development
3- School sports that encourage learning
4- All work and no play makes a dull teacher
5- 10 ways to increase children's activity level at school