After school programmes

Low impact for high cost, based on limited evidence.

Cost Per Pupil Cost estimate: Up to £1,200 per pupil. cost per pupil
Evidence Rating Evidence estimate: At least one meta-analysis or review. evidence rating Average impact: + 2 additional months. Impact +2 months

What is it?

Children or young people are involved in planned activities which are supervised by adults at the end of the school day. The goals, objectives and approaches of the programmes may vary greatly. Some will have an academic focus and be taught by teachers from the school the pupils attend, others will have a wider variety of activities supported by adults with a range of skills and qualifications.

How effective is it?

Research indicates that participating in after school programmes improves performance on measures of academic achievement. However, the gains are low to moderate on tested attainment of reading or mathematics (with a benefit of about an additional two months' progress per year) and there is an inconsistent pattern of impact across studies, which suggests that the quality and focus of the programme is important. In the UK there is evidence that such programmes are linked with GCSE improvement by a third of a level in mathematics and three-quarters of a level in science. There is evidence that there are wider benefits for low-income students in terms of attendance at school, behaviour and relationships with peers. 

Programmes may not be equally effective with all students. At risk children are more likely to benefit, as are younger children (5 to 10 year olds). Positive effects for reading were highest for younger primary pupils and in secondary schools. Maths gains were higher for older primary and secondary pupils. However the research indicates that it is harder to attract and retain pupils in after school programmes at secondary level compared with primary pupils. Programmes which support and encourage children academically while providing stimulating environments and activities will most likely link to engagement. Additionally, teacher’s support, promotion of interaction and mutual respect appear to be some of the key elements in enhancing participation.

How secure is the evidence?

There are a number of reviews and a comprehensive meta-analyses, mainly using data from the USA, but with broadly similar findings from less rigorous evaluations undertaken in the UK. Analysis suggests that enthusiasm for after school programmes in the USA has outpaced the research base, indicating the need for more rigorous evaluations with outcome measures that demonstrate effectiveness on learning.

For full references please click here

What are the costs?

In the UK, official estimates suggest after school clubs cost on average £7 per session per pupil. The costs of well-qualified and trained staff may increase these estimates, particularly if they involve tutoring, so the Toolkit estimates about £10 per session per pupil. £10 per day for about half a school year (100 days) comes to about £1,000 per pupil. Costs are therefore estimated as high.

What should I consider?

  • Programmes with greater structure, a strong link to the curriculum, well-qualified and well-trained staff are more clearly related to academic benefits.

  • Particularly promising after school activities include one to one or small group tuition.

  • Enrichment activities (such as sports or arts engagement) may have positive benefits on attitudes, but these alone will not improve academic learning.

  • Have you considered how effectively booster activities to support revision and exam practice are being delivered?

  • Have you considered how you will engage and retain older pupils?