Following is a short synopsis of  some research which provides evidence of the positive outcomes, which result from children participating in after-school activities.

After school and early school leaving research suggests that advantages of State after school programmes are more apparent in contexts of disadvantage (Posner & Vandell 1994; Hennessy & Donnelly 2005) as low income children can access the extracurricular activities commonly available to middle class children.

Morgan (1998) cites a U.S. study by Beacham (1980), which found that over 60% of early school leavers were not involved in any extracurricular activities during their high school years – a level which is significantly higher than any estimates of the overall number not participating in such activities. This study arguably has much relevance also to the primary school context. Participation in even one extracurricular school activity is associated with a reduction in rates of early school leaving, particularly for high-risk youth (Mahoney & Cairns 1997).

Mahoney (2000) defines participation as one or more years of involvement in the extracurricular activity and states: The participant is attracted to the activity and is likely competent in that area or may even excel. Unlike preventive interventions that attempt to correct academic or social deficits by remedial work, extracurricular activities may foster a positive connection between the individual and school based on the student’s interests and motivations. The specific activity pursued may be less important than the act of participation itself (p.503) Kellaghan et al (1995), commenting on the experience of U.S prevention of early school leaving schemes, emphasise that: success in one kind of target domain may have a snowball effect on other kinds so that the net beneficial effect may be greater than predicted for any one domain (p.90) III.

After school and social skills

In the United States, Posner & Vandell (1994) surveyed four types of after school care, formal after school care, mother care, informal adult supervision and self care with a total of 216 children. They documented extensive positive effects for low income children. These positive effects were associated with better grades and conduct in school as well as better peer relations and emotional adjustment.

Moreover, Posner & Vandell (1994) revealed that low income children in formal ASPs were exposed to more learning opportunities than those children in the other forms of care. They also spent more time participating in activities such as music and dance which would not have been available to them had they not been in formal ASPs. It was noted that less time was spent watching TV and engaging in unstructured activities in the locale and more time in enrichment activities than other children. There was a positive correlation between the children’s academic and conduct grades and the time spent in a one to one academic situation with an adult, and a negative correlation between their academic and conduct grades and the time spent in outdoor unorganised ‘hanging out’ activities.

In the Irish 2002 survey undertaken by the St. Vincent de Paul, members of the organisation, families they assisted and teachers were questioned as to their past experiences, current difficulties and future hopes. Responses to the provision of educational supports elicited a high ranking from teachers and parents for Homework and After School Clubs with parents acknowledging the benefit of After-School Clubs to the well-being and educational development of their children.

In the North Inner City context, Ivers (2008) has also observed the key role of even one friend in providing the support and motivation for staying on at school until Leaving Certificate. The opportunity for establishing meaningful friendships through CASPr offers not simply the capacity for developing social skills but also the chance to express these skills through expanded social relations and friendships that can serve potentially as a protective factor against early school leaving. This opportunity for making friendships is also an important issue for children from ethnic minority backgrounds in the area, quite apart from wider social cohesion goals of enhanced opportunity for contact and cooperation between the established communities and the ‘new’ Irish.

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