Benefits of Extracurricular Activities for Children

A Focus on Social Inclusion and Children from Disadvantaged and Vulnerable Backgrounds

Published in: European Commission website (2021). doi: 10.2767/254969

Posted on RAND.org on June 09, 2021

by William D. Phillips, Eliane Dufresne, Simon Larmour, Elena Rosa Brown

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Events organised outside of the regular school day, otherwise known as extracurricular activities (ECAs), are seen by many as a way to enable children to become active citizens in their community and develop soft skills such as self-esteem and resilience (Parveva et al., 2018). ECAs can be wide-ranging and incorporate many different types of activities that are offered in addition to the mandated curriculum. Examples include sports clubs, youth clubs, music clubs (learning to play a musical instrument and playing in an orchestra/band), education-based groups (tutorials based on school subjects) and other out-of-school activities such as volunteering and Scouts and Guides (Donnelly et al., 2019). They can be offered by a range of different providers including schools, local councils and voluntary groups and can be based in both schools and other settings (youth centres, leisure centres, parks, libraries).

At present, research on the specific benefits of ECAs for children is fragmented and there are no comprehensive overviews of the existing research. This is perhaps confounded by the fact that ECAs are not a well-defined concept (Bartkus et al., 2012). Given the potential for ECAs to foster social inclusion, it is also surprising that no reviews have explored the extent to which ECAs support social inclusion, or how to best offer ECAs to support disadvantaged and vulnerable children to attend and participate in ECAs across the EU.

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