The report from the Social Mobility Commission on extra-curricular activities, soft skills and social mobility published today https://www.gov.uk/government/news/extra-curricular-activities-soft-skills-and-social-mobility comes a decade after similar research, by the then DCSF, (Department of Children, Schools and Families) about schools that offered extended services, both before and after school. This research was conducted in the period before the age of austerity, and any large-scale use of breakfast clubs and food banks. I reported on the DCSF evidence for the TES in the ‘Stat of the Week’ column of 10th April 2009.
There are some striking similarities between the two reports. Today’s Social Mobility Commission report that is entitled ‘An Unequal Playing field’, and is based upon research conducted by the University of Bath, shows according to the press notice:
huge disparities in children’s participation rates across a wide range of extra-curricular activities depending on their social background. Children aged 10 to 15 from wealthier families are much more likely to take part in every type of activity especially music and sport.
The report looks at activities such as arts, music, sport, dance, voluntary work, and youth clubs. It shows that children’s participation in extra-curricular activities depends on the schools they attend; the area they are growing up and their socio-economic background.
As household income rises so does increased participation. Those from better-off families are also more likely to engage in a greater number of out of school activities. Children from the poorest families are 3 times more likely to not participate in any extra-curricular activities compared to those from wealthier families.
Some classes are expensive but there are other barriers for the less affluent. In some areas there are access difficulties – schools don’t provide the activities and local councils have cut back on their provisions for children and young people. Sometimes, however, children from disadvantaged backgrounds do not take part because they lack confidence or fear they will not fit in.
A decade ago, I wrote of the DCSF research that ‘pupils least likely to be using the facilities provided by extended schools are those from the more deprived groups.’ Seems little has changed here.
A decade ago the majority of activities offered through the extended school programme were after school activities, and I suspect that is this is still the case today. However, where before school activities were offered a decade ago, pupils were more likely to make use of them on more days of the week.
In 2009, I concluded that ‘the activities relating to having fun and socialising are the key activities of out-of-school activities’. The Social Mobility Commission chairman has concluded that
“It is shocking that so many children from poorer backgrounds never get the chance to join a football team, learn to dance or play music. The activity either costs too much, isn’t available or children just feel they won’t fit in. As a result they miss out on important benefits – a sense of belonging, increased confidence and social skills which are invaluable to employers. It is high time to level the playing field.”
But, how to level that playing field will be the challenge for the DfE, just as it was for DCSF a decade ago. Seems like not much progress, if any, has been made during the intervening years, and this is another casualty of austerity.