AFTER THE BELL
Wednesday, January 9, 2008.
Chances are that the knowledge and skills that have helped you succeed in life were not all acquired in the classroom.
Participating in out of school hours activities gives young people opportunities to develop these skills— and to fulfil their potential, follow up their interests and become well-rounded individuals.
The children of affluent parents take these activities for granted. Less privileged children may well be in greater need of an extra boost, yet they often miss out because their parents or schools can’t afford to pay.
Something to do
Out of school hours activities are voluntary activities that take place before or after school, during lunch breaks, at weekends or in school holidays. They include homework clubs, booster and revision sessions, breakfast clubs, sport, outdoor adventures, arts and crafts, drama workshops, IT sessions, community service, hobby clubs, choirs and orchestras, and mother tongue tuition.
They offer young people a chance to:
• Go somewhere safe and supervised
• Take part in constructive activities
• Develop new interests
• Acquire new skills
• Make new friends
• Improve their health and fitness
• Gain experience of higher education or
• Get support and guidance from adults.
Clare Yeowart, a research analyst at New Philanthropy Capital (NPC), researched and wrote the report After the bell. Here, she explains why out of school hours activities deserve financial support. What’s so important about out of school hours activities?
At the most basic level, organised activities benefit children, families and the whole community by keeping kids constructively occupied, off the streets, and out of harm’s way.
But most programmes do much more than that. They help young people develop skills for later life: the ability to communicate, to work in a team, and to lead and inspire others. They improve children’s well-being, concentration and attitude to their studies. They get children involved in activities like drama, sport and music, sparking interests that can last a lifetime and even shape career choices.
These activities are available to children whose parents can afford to pay for them, but lots of less privileged children miss out. It’s probably the kids who don’t get much support at home who need activity programmes the most. Yet struggling schools in disadvantaged areas often lack the resources to offer them.
What difference do they make to young people’s lives?
Some activities are about broadening young people’s horizons and letting them discover what they are capable of. As well as helping kids develop their abilities, some charities organise trips to universities and corporations to show them that with a bit of extra support they can study at degree level or get a high-powered
Other kinds of activity help children perform better in class. A lot of children don’t get any breakfast, or snack on crisps and chocolate on the way to school. Going to a breakfast club doesn’t just help them eat more healthily, it improves their concentration. Taking part in sport can improve children’s academic performance as well as their fitness. And activities that boost children’s self-esteem and confidence often pay dividends in the classroom too.
Can you give any examples?
I was shown around one charity, Eastside Young Leaders’ Academy in east London, by a very articulate 10 year old His mother told me that the family had left Africa a few years earlier. After this upheaval, the boy’s dad had died, leaving mother and son alone in a strange country with little money.
Her son was showing signs of disruptive behaviour and so she referred him to Eastside, recognising the need for positive male role models to help keep him on the right track. The academy, which works with black African and Caribbean boys between the ages of eight and eighteen, has been a lifeline. Her son is more focused and determined to do well at school, and his mother describes Eastside as her extended family.
What about schools? Don’t they run activities themselves?
Yes, most schools do. But they are often run on an ad hoc basis and rely on the willingness of teachers and volunteers to give up their free time for no extra pay.
Schools have so many demands on their budgets and on staff time that out of school activities may simply get squeezed out, particularly as government funding is not ring-fenced for out of school activities and is not enough to keep them going. To be fair, having activities run
independently of schools can be an advantage. That way, children don’t see them as just an extension of the school.
The London Metropolitan Police has estimated that between 1995 and 2003 this programme helped to cut local drug offences by 25%, juvenile nuisance by 17% and overall youth crime by 8% over the holiday period.
• More than a third of all 11- to 16-year olds go home to an empty house
• Half of parents do not know where their children are, who they are with or what they are doing at any one time
• Teenagers are twice as likely as other age groups t o be victims of violent crime
• Nearly half of 11-year-olds don’t have any breakfast before they go to school
• Seven out of ten young people complain there isn’t enough to do in their area
• More than two-thirds of 11- to 16-year-olds think that young people are more likely to cause disruption if they are bored.
With thanks New Philanthropy Capital (http://www.philanthropycapital.org).
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