Education Endowment Foundation:Children’s University

Children’s University

Children’s University
Implementation cost
Evidence strength
Impact (months)
+2
months
Project info

Independent Evaluator

Durham University logo
Durham University
Testing the impact of social action on young people’s engagement and attainment at school.
Pupils: 2603 Schools: 68 Grant: £559,862
Key Stage: 2 Duration: 3 year(s) 10 month(s) Type of Trial: Efficacy Trial
Completed December 2017

This page covers the first (efficacy) trial of Children’s University, which tested whether it could work in schools under best possible conditions. To read about the second (effectiveness) trial – which tested a scalable model under everyday conditions in a large number of schools – click here.

Children’s University (CU) aims to improve the aspirations and attainment of pupils aged 5 to 14 by providing learning activities beyond the normal school day, such as after-school clubs, visits to universities and museums, and social action’ opportunities such as volunteering in the community. In this project, children in Years 5 and 6 volunteered to take part and selected the activities they wished to attend. Participation was rewarded through credits, certificates and a graduation’ event. The intervention evaluated here is one of two youth social action’ projects jointly funded by the Education Endowment Foundation and the U.K. Cabinet Office.

EEF funded this project to test whether extra-curricular activities, including social action, can help to improve pupil attainment and other attitudes and skills, such as motivation, confidence and team-working. There is a growing appetite to understand whether activities like these can promote improved outcomes, and there is also evidence that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are currently less likely to participate in these types of activities.

This trial found positive impacts on Key Stage 2 maths and reading results equivalent to about 2 months’ additional progress. Small improvements were also seen for a range of non-cognitive outcomes, such as teamwork, social responsibility, and aspirations. These results have moderate security, and further evaluation would be needed before we can be confident that the results apply to other schools, but they provide initial evidence that well-supported enrichment activities can improve children’s academic and non-cognitive outcomes.

Previous research suggests that the quality of activities, explicit links to learning, and recognition for children’s achievements are important components of extra-curricular activities that aim to improve educational outcomes. The process evaluation provides some evidence that these factors contributed to the success of this intervention. It also found that pressures to meet performance targets, and limited time, were barriers to taking part for some schools.

  1. Children in the CU schools made 2 additional months’ progress in reading and maths compared to children in the other schools. The finding for maths has moderate security, and the finding for reading has low to moderate security
  2. Children in CU schools made small gains in teamwork’ and social responsibility’ compared to children in the other schools. The finding for social responsibility has moderate security and the finding for teamwork has low to moderate security.
  3. Compared to pupils in the control group, those in the treatment group were more likely to select professional occupations as their future aspiration, and to report higher levels of communication, empathy, self-confidence, resilience, and happiness, after the intervention.
  4. Compared to pupils in the control group, those in the treatment group were more likely to select professional occupations as their future aspiration, and to report higher levels of communication, empathy, self-confidence, resilience, and happiness, after the intervention.
  5. The intervention was feasible to run with support from school leaders. However, 7 schools decided not to implement the intervention despite receiving the training because of pressures to meet performance targets, and limited time
Outcome/​Group
ImpactThe size of the difference between pupils in this trial and other pupils
SecurityHow confident are we in this result?
KS2 reading
+2
Months' progress
KS2 maths
+2
Months' progress
'Teamwork'
-
Months' progress
'Social responsibility'
-
Months' progress
EverFSM KS2 reading
0
Months' progress
N/A
EverFSM KS2 maths
+1
Months' progress
N/A
EverFSM 'Teamwork'
-
Months' progress
N/A
EverFSM 'Social responsibility'
-
Months' progress
N/A