Enriching Education Recovery – The role of non-formal learning and extra-curricular activities
In partnership with National Citizen Service
18th October 2021
Today CfEY is launching a new report in partnership with the National Citizen Service, examining the role of non-formal learning (NFL) and extracurricular enrichment opportunities in supporting young people’s education recovery after the pandemic.
NFL is a broad term for learning experiences that take place outside of a formal or academic setting – including:
- outdoor pursuits
- trips away from home
- music and drama lessons
- debating and public speaking
- attending a youth club and engaging with a youth worker.
In the school context NFL is often also referred to as extra-curricular activities or ‘enrichment’.Community-based provision remains crucial, and there are many opportunities to embed non-formal learning more squarely in schools and the education system. Click To Tweet
This discussion paper reviews the existing evidence on the positive impacts of NFL on young people’s outcomes, as well as drawing on new insights from polling conducted with children and young people themselves, parents, and teachers. All the information points to the importance of a comprehensive approach to education recovery that recognises the value of extracurricular and enrichment activities in supporting children and young people to overcome the impacts of Covid.
Our findings include:
Community-based provision remains crucial, and there are many opportunities to embed NFL more squarely in schools and the education system. Partnerships at a strategic and operational level across the youth and education sectors can help to drive success, along with a diversity of funding mechanisms that reach schools and community-based organisations alike. Children and young people’s voices have been illuminating in this process, and should continue to inform the shape and scope of the evolving education recovery agenda. Engaging children and young people themselves will help to build an inclusive and sustainable education recovery plan.
While the government is rightly investing in academic catch-up to mitigate the long-term costs of lost formal learning during the pandemic, young people’s wider learning and development remains at risk. Young people need more than good grades to make a successful transition to adulthood. Increasing access to NFL drives positive outcomes for children and young people and can be a core component of education recovery. There is robust evidence linking NFL to improved educational outcomes, employment prospects, and physical and mental health. Investment in this area can also deliver economic benefits in the longer-term through improving educational outcomes and life skills leading to greater productivity; reduced costs of social care and creating a stimulus for NFL providers.
Recent polling has shown that there is a high level of support among children and young people, parents, and teachers for improved access to extracurricular and enrichment opportunities. Whilst people recognise that children and young people need extra support with formal, academic catch up – even larger proportions agree with the need for more access to extracurricular activities and wider learning experiences.Engaging children and young people themselves will help to build an inclusive and sustainable education recovery plan Click To Tweet
Through community-based provision we can reach marginalised young people who are more likely to engage with opportunities outside school. Out-of-school activities, youth clubs and youth workers are all part of the fabric of a non-formal learning ‘offer’ that extends beyond the school gates and is delivered by trusted adults who are not teachers. Further embedding non-formal learning in schools and the education system also presents an opportunity to expand access. Frameworks, guidance and benchmarks could effectively support this – including exploring Ofsted’s role in further supporting schools to understand what constitutes excellence in non-formal learning.
Partnerships and collaboration between the NFL and education sectors hold much promise. The expertise of specialist providers of NFL is well-recognised, with polling showing that children and young people, parents, and teachers are all in favour of schools partnering with specialist external organisations to deliver these activities. Leadership and coordination at a strategic level – including the kinds of cross-sector initiative that has led to this discussion paper – can help to build bridges across sectors that enable better partnerships.There is robust evidence linking NFL to improved educational outcomes, employment prospects, and physical and mental health. Investment in this area can also deliver economic benefits in the longer-term Click To Tweet
Finally, there is a diverse range of funding opportunities and approaches that could help to scale-up NFL in a community and school setting. The £500 million Youth Investment Fund has huge potential to expand non-formal learning provision in communities. There are also funding avenues to be explored in the education system – from central grants (learning from the approach of the Character Grants), to an ‘enrichment premium’ for disadvantaged pupils (following the model of the pupil premium) as well as a bursary scheme as proposed by the Social Mobility Commission, with funds going directly to low income families.