Monday Period 6 – Extra curricular? NO – vital lifeblood

A previous Headteacher at my school set out our 1265 hours (in the days that it applied) he carefully calculated that after teaching supervision and meetings we all had 65 hours left and announced to us to “do something with children” clubs, sports, music trips. It began a culture of what was then called the ‘hidden curriculum’ is now called extended day or extra curricular.  I’ve come to see it as part of an essential and vital oxygen supply to the life of our school.

0913-230913-23Clubs activities and trips and visits have huge value in their own right. Great wonderful opportunities: Places visited, skills learned, social mixing and making new different friends, role modelling and aspirations, teamwork, independence, curiosity spurred, performance demands recognised and celebrated. But it is much more than that – most activities bring ‘volunteer pupils’ along, well maybe some arm twisted pupils but the keen and enthusiastic. Then of course there is no   the activity, no league table pressure on pupils or staff. I’m not saying sports teams don’t have some pressure, we all know it’s not the taking part but the winning. It’s not as if we would accept a sloppy musical performance so we still have standards but not exams, not grades.Then at the heart of these activities just as at the heart of the school are relationships and they are somehow a bit different. I don’t know I can describe the differences:

  • Teachers still monitor behaviour
  • Teachers still work with parents ( they get cross when parents turn up late to collect their children and forget the old “thank you)
  • Teachers still do health and safety checks
  • Teachers still plan and think of the worth of the details drawn from the activity (hey and some activities take so much planning and paperwork we all wonder that they ever happen)

0913-23But there is something magical about this relationship, pupils often really love those activities and therefore their teachers. Older pupils do for the most learn to genuinely appreciate the effort, the time and the contribution and so too do their parents ( OK not always I know). I wonder if we (me) as SLT appreciate the effort , energy and contribution. It’s not just about publicity, the head being able to say we do DofE and sport and yoyo club…and …and…..obviously that does happen and should do with a huge pride, because it is a source of rich cultural endeavour. It’s not just about the school website looking attractive with photos of trips and music and sport ( you can check ours!) In my view it helps with a much deeper question.

0913-23A lot is written about behaviour and behaviour management and we all have to learn our own ways to keep discipline. I sometimes disagree with SMW but he is right about discipline and low level disruption he just doesn’t articulate his complaint so well or the media distort it.

If children like school and like the staff and like the activities surely they are beginning to like school to such a point that they are therefore less likely to disrupt, to mess about to skive or be absent. The extra curricular life blood is critical. Pupils begin to appreciate their institution because of the people, not the building.  So those caught up, attend school and then when they find themselves in a geography lesson, well they might try and might just learn, a skilled teacher can exploit their commitment to the school. So we all benefit from the contribution of those who run after-school, or lunchtime clubs or weekend trips. Recently SMW and OFsted have published materials about low level disruption and if you have ever had to work out which ‘benefits to remove’ or ‘punishments to give’ to a pupil – an after school detention, or isolation, or even lines, there is nothing to compare with the statement “you can’t go on the trip, you can’t play football this week” Express this morality will have a powerful effect.  Even if you have to explain the vitality of taking these opportunities by spelling it out to pupils and parents do so and some poorer behaviour will become less of an issue.

0913-23I often look at our pastoral staff, and they are good, very good I think and they can be excellent with some potentially difficult pupils getting them to conform. Why? Often because they took the same pupils in y7 in a sports team, or encouraged them to learn an instrument and congratulate them on successes within the school day but beyond it too. They went with them on the battlefields trip or the trip to France or organised a trip to LIncoln, hey supported their interest in the HET visit to Auschwitz. Or just maybe stand alongside them digging in our allotment, or….

0913-23Our old head was spot on. Don’t use teacher hours in endless meetings, encourage them to do things with children. After all for most of us doing things with children is why we came into this job in the first place. It makes for a rich experience, and it helps pupils learn to really love school and love teachers and that done behaviour will be better and then learning improves and teachers can get on with that other job – teaching and learning.

Some links:

Sutton trust articles on extra curricular consequences

BBC on tuition and hobbies helping richer children

Some questions to consider

Q1 How can we share and highlight the importance of extra curricular opportunities to parents, pupils and teachers?

Q2 Is it right that the worth is greater than the intrinsic value of the activity?

Q3 What do schools do to ensure staff have the energy and resources to sustain extra curricular activity, when they are under enormous pressure already?

For those in a church school

Matthew 5:40

if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Galatians 6:10

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people

Ephesians 5:16

Making the most of every opportunity

Ecclesiastes 7:27

“Look,” says the teacher, “this is what I have discovered:


8 thoughts on “Monday Period 6 – Extra curricular? NO – vital lifeblood

  1. Excellent post, John!

    When I started teaching I found it tough. All I’d ever wanted to do was teach, and I found it sobering to think that perhaps, after years of thinking it was, teaching might NOT be the right job for me. I felt I was working extremely hard, putting so much more in than I was getting out of it, and I started to question whether I could sustain a life-long career of this. In fact at Christmas of my first year I had a frank discussion with my partner (now my husband) and decided that if I felt similarly by Easter I would resign and then look for another job – not another school, but a different profession.

    I think one of the things that ‘saved’ me was involvement in the extra-curricular life of the school. I went to help and support at a swimming gala and really enjoyed it – enjoyed the company of pupils outside the classroom and felt it really helped me to build my relationship with them inside the classroom. I helped at end of term parties, went on a couple of D of E weekends, joined the school choir….

    This helped to transform my experience of teaching, and by Easter I was sure I wanted to stay in the profession. Involvement in the extra-curricular life of the school does, of course, take time and in some ways increase your workload, but the rewards are huge – for staff as well as for students and the school as a whole.

    Thanks again for the post.


      • Couldn’t agree more John (and Jill). Getting to know the students outside the classroom certainly helps with discipline and respect in the classroom as well, especially when they know you are prepared to go ‘above and beyond’ for them in your own time. Some of my best memories have come from extra curricular activities & these are the things that have made the teaching even more worthwhile. Long may they continue!!!


  2. As an old sociologist and teacher I would say that school trips and other extra-curricular activities really are part of the overt curriculum. They are not hidden and they do contribute to the conscious goals of a school . Not that this matters to our agreed high regard for such things, As a victim of 1960s Grammar School education I can report that my formal teaching and learning were dreary and shallow. My memories and cultural enthusiasms all derive from the sports and the trips.

    The idea of a “hidden curriculum” that I read about back in those radical times was a more sinister affair, The hierarchies, the anti-intellectual prejudices, the sexism, individualism and habits of obedience (to name a few) were the sorts of things that my schooling passed on in all kinds of humdrum ways, often without any of the teachers being conscious of the processes or consequences involved. Looking at schools now I see similarly taken-for-granted lessons being handed out – especially in relation to the confusion of test results and achievement rankings with personal growth and scholarly excellence. Our lists of proper subjects and topics and the priorities given to them (our formal curriculum) passes on an unstated (hidden) education into what really counts in the wider world as it is (competitive, self-seeking, materialist) rather than how it might be (other-directed, collective, spiritual)

    So I don’t disagree with any of what you have said here – I found myself applauding throughout. I was just anxious about your use of a term that meant a lot to me in my own lifetime’s adventures in education. If sociology taught me anything it was that we cannot trust our own explanations of what we are doing.


    • Thank you for taking the trouble to reply. Your points are most helpful to any debate and my misunderstandings. In particular as I too am a child of the late 60’s and a grammar school ed. Part of the reason I wanted a career in comprehensive schools but hey ho…. Academies.


  3. As a former student of this school at the time of the Head you mention, I couldn’t agree more. Extra-curricular activity is so important to the life of the school and the lives of the students within it. I’ve only really realised what an impact these activities made since leaving school: when I got to university the other state school kids, even those from grammar schools, bemoaned a lack of extra-curricular activities, or at least a lack of good ones, at their school, while the private school alumni had learned musical instruments, joined sports clubs and created their own activities and groups supported by the school.

    One of the greatest legacies this head left was music: I ended up in the award-winning marching band, swing band and concert band at school, even though when I first arrived in Year 7 I had no idea what a quaver was and had never even looked a trumpet in the mouthpiece. I feel that being so engaged in extra-curricular activities helped me gain confidence and ambition, and I think the same probably applies to the students who were involved in sport and drama at the school. Getting involved with Young Enterprise during Year 12 has even helped me in starting my own freelance business. I actually think that the confidence we gained through extra-curricular activities encouraged us to aim higher and the competition gave us a little more fight.

    Sadly I think most of us didn’t truly realise at the time how much effort teachers put into these activities and how it would affect us in later life (though I suppose that goes for most aspects of teaching). Rest assured I and countless others are grateful!


    • Such a wonderful response Carmen, thank you for taking the trouble to find the blog and then comment. I’m pretty sure you did show gratitude but I guess most of us take some things for granted. Maybe your comment will help us inspire another generation of pupils and potential teachers too. Much appreciated.


  4. Pingback: Wednesday period 1 – Building character? or what we call – teaching. | Mr John Dexter

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