Evidence, News | Aug 07 2017

Research: extra curricular activities in secondary schools

The Department for Education has published research into the extra curricular activities offered by Secondary Schools. The research draws on 45 semi-structured interviews, case studies in 7 schools featuring focus groups, and a survey of 100 providers of extra curricular activities. Here we present some of the key findings and evidence.

You can find the full research report here.

Current provision:

  • Most extra curricular activities are provided during break times as well as after school. Only a small number of activities are provided before school – and most activities offered at weekends or school holidays are run by commercial providers.
  • By far the highest provision for extra curricular activity is sport and physical activities (73% of surveyed organisations), followed by the arts (29%), drama/dance/film (27%), work experience (25%) and volunteering activities (22%)
  • On average, non-school providers worked with small numbers of schools, and with no more than 5 groups of pupils in any one school. Pupils who take part tend to be in smaller groups than class sizes.
  • The key enabler of extra-curricular activities in schools was the presence of a willing staff member that had a similar interest.
  • The research found key concerns amongst school staff and parents were about the quality and cost of provision – with many schools putting in place their own feedback mechanisms to understand the benefit of different activities.
  • Of the 100 providers of extra curricular activities surveyed, 19% offered activities free of charge, 47% charged parents or pupils directly, and less than 34% charged the school / local authority directly.
  • Of organisations that charged for activities, (35%) charged £10 or more per session, and 27% charged less than £3 per session. There were geographic variations, with London and the South East charging more on average.


Key barriers to extending provision:

Schools identified a range of barriers to extending their provision, which typically related to a combination of :

  • financial constraints,
  • a lack of staffing capacity / workload issues,
  • high transport costs and inflexibility,
  • a lack of access to suitable facilities and equipment.


A lack of status for out-of-normal timetable provision also emerged as an issue. Parental attitudes and engagement were sometimes cited as a barrier, and sometimes as a potential strength or enabler, depending on the individual school.

Schools identified having leadership support (e.g. from the headteacher) as being an enabling factor. Coordination and oversight was also found to be needed, with several schools having appointed a “Community Manager”, in order to oversee activities outside of the normal timetable, building community links, and manager partnerships.

Many schools felt that many external providers lacked the capacity and experience to play an active role in planning and coordination. This was particularly the case for smaller providers, or those with less experience of the school environment.

Key quote:


Schools largely reported that they felt they offered a good range of out-of-timetable provision.

Schools were resistant to the idea of a compulsory extended school day – with key barriers being:

  • costs and funding,
  • poor transportation,
  • the lack of capacity amongst teaching and teaching staff,
  • extra curricular providers lacking experience / capacity in working with schools.


There was a general consensus that the main barriers to schools taking on more activities from external providers were:

  • cost,
  • transport
  • a lack of capacity for oversight and coordination
  • the difficulty of verifying quality of provision
  • access to facilities and equipment


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.
You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>