Poorer children miss out on music and sports

Playing sport, learning to play a musical instrument or joining a drama group give children vital skills and the chance to socialise with different groups of people, but research from the Social Mobility Commission has found that whether children take part in these types of activity is heavily influenced by how much money their family has.

Children’s access to extra-curricular activities depends on the socio-economic position of their family, with children from wealthier families being much more likely to take part in all types of extra-curricular activities, but particularly sport and music tuition. This means that poorer children are missing out on important opportunities to develop new skills. Taking part in activities like sport, dance, music and youth groups also appears to increase children’s aspirations and opens up different opportunities for them when they leave school.

Understanding Society asks children about the activities they do outside school, their education and  their aspirations for the future. As a household panel survey, the Study also has information about family socio-economic position. The Social Mobility Commission used this breadth of information to explore which children take part in activities outside school and whether this has a lasting impact on their life choices.

Key findings:

  • Extra-curricular activities are important to young people and result in a range of positive outcomes. Taking part in extra-curricular activities, particularly music lessons, is a strong predictor of whether a child remains in education after compulsory schooling stops.
  • Opportunities to take part in extra-curricular activities are unequally distributed and are driven by household income, the school attended, gender, ethnicity and where the child lives in the UK.

The Social Mobility Commission is recommending that the government introduce an extra-curricular bursary scheme and provide more funding for activities outside school, so that all children have the opportunity to take part in activities that benefit them.

“Extra-curricular activities boost young people’s confidence to interact socially with others; extend their social networks; and provide them with new skills and abilities. Above all, they offer an important space to have fun and relax away from the pressures of school work. These more qualitative benefits must not be discounted, especially in the context of contemporary challenges around young people’s mental health and wellbeing” An unequal playing field: Extra-curricular activities, soft skills and social mobility, the Social Mobility Commission.

You can read the full report here. 

The report has featured in the media: