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How to after-school clubs can help vulnerable children

Every child should have the chance to reach their potential, but there’s an education gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children.  Attainment 8 is a way of measuring how well pupils do in key stage 4, which they usually finish when they are 16 years old. From 2020 to 2021, the average GCSE Attainment 8 score was 39.1 out of 90 for pupils on Free School Meals, compared with 53.6 out of 90 for non-eligible pupils. This limits children’s prospects for their future.

A team at Newcastle University found that attendance at after-school clubs at age 11 was significantly related to children’s attainment in Key Stage 2 Maths and English. Being part of an after-school club was also significantly linked to better social skills, showing that these activities may contribute to better all-around development. Soft skills are important for school success and future employment prospects, and therefore must be a key focus in initiatives to close the gap between rich and poor children’s success.

Encouraging disadvantaged children to participate in out-of-school activities

Disadvantaged children are outweighed by advantaged children across many out-of-school activities, with a dramatic difference in those taking music lessons (six per cent of disadvantaged, compared with 26 per cent of advantaged children). However, breakfast and after-school clubs have a more equal distribution, showing that these are the most accessible for disadvantaged children.

Case study interviews with staff, pupils, providers and parents have identified the following key themes that make after-school clubs, particularly appealing:

  • Affordability – many clubs are free or very low-cost compared with other activities, such as music tuition
  • Convenience – attending a club on the school site avoids the time and cost of travelling, particularly for parents who are working or have limited access to transport
  • Familiarity – parents felt more comfortable knowing the environment and staff


Tanner, E., Chanfreau, J., Callanan, M., Laing, K., Paylor, J., Skipp, A. and Todd, L. (2016). Can out of school activities close the education gap? (Briefing Paper 4). Accessed at http://www.natcen.ac.uk/media/1216042/can-out-of-school-activities-close-the-education-gap.pdf