Examining the evidence on out-of-school-time programmes

Out-of-school-time (OST) programmes typically provide children with additional academic lessons outside of school hours and/or recreational and enrichment activities. To examine the evidence base on OST programmes, Jennifer McCombs and colleagues from the RAND Corporation reviewed meta-analyses and large-scale, rigorous experimental and quasi-experimental evaluations of after-school and summer programmes. Their review included specialty programmes (eg, sports or arts programmes); multipurpose programmes (eg, Boys and Girls clubs); and academic programmes (eg, summer learning programmes).

After reviewing the research, the authors compiled the following conclusions:

  • OST programmes provide measurable benefits to children and families on outcomes directly related to programme content.
  • Academic OST programmes with sufficient “dosage” (measured by the hours of content provided) can demonstrably improve pupil achievement.
  • Programme quality and intentionality influence outcomes.
  • Children need to attend regularly to measurably benefit from programming.

The authors provide a complete list of studies reviewed and their key findings.

A previous issue of Best Evidence in Brief included a study by the Nuffield Foundation, which examines the effect of OST study programmes on GCSE performance in England.

Source: The value of out-of-school-time programmes (2017), PE-267-WF, RAND Corporation

Volunteering improves self-confidence and teamwork, but not achievement

A new study from the Education Endowment Foundation in the UK looks at the impact of a youth social-action project. Delivered by the Youth United Foundation, it involved the creation of new units of uniformed youth organisations (such as The Scout Association, Sea Cadets, or St. John Ambulance) in schools in the North East of England. The groups delivered sessions throughout the year, usually weekly, delivered by trained staff from the youth organisations, sometimes involving adult volunteers, including teachers.

Seventy-one secondary schools were randomly assigned to receive the intervention or not. An initial survey of 3,377 Year 9 students (8th grade in the U.S.) found nearly half wanted to take part in the activities offered, and 663 took part in uniformed group activities during the 2014/15 academic year.

There was no evidence that the intervention had any benefit on children’s academic performance. However, participation in the intervention saw a small improvement in self-reported non-achievement outcomes including self-confidence (effect size = +0.10) and teamwork (+0.04). For children eligible for free school meals, there was no evidence of impact on any outcome.

A process evaluation revealed that students, teachers, and parents thought highly of the intervention. It also highlighted a number of factors that prevented the intervention from being delivered as planned, including a lack of space, time, adult volunteers, and support from senior leadership.

Source: Youth Social Action: Secondary Trial (2016), Education Endowment Foundation

Out-of-school clubs linked with better outcomes

A new working paper from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies investigates whether taking part in out-of-school activities during primary school is linked with end-of-primary-school achievement and social, emotional, and behavioural outcomes for all children, and specifically for children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

The analysis is based on the UK’s Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), a national longitudinal study of more than 11,000 children born in the year 2000. This was linked with administrative data on the children’s attainment scores at ages 6-7 and 10-11. In addition to looking at achievement (total point score, English, and maths) at ages 10-11, researchers also investigated social, emotional, and behavioural outcomes using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) total difficulties and prosocial skills scores.

Results showed that sports clubs and “other” (unspecified) club participation was positively associated with achievement outcomes at age 11, when controlling for prior achievement. Participating in organised sports or physical activity was also positively linked to social, emotional, and behavioural outcomes. Among disadvantaged children, after school clubs emerged as the only organised activity linked to child outcomes; participation was linked to both higher achievement  and prosocial skills at ages 10-11.

Source: Out of School Activities During Primary School and KS2 Attainment (2016) Centre for Longitudinal Studies