I have spent much of my career stressing the importance of extra-curricular activities to student development. For many like myself, it has been an integral part of my own health and social development, at school and beyond. It always makes me smile when I see the look of abject horror when students realise that teachers have lives outside of the classroom. They often think we close our classroom door at the end of the day and only emerge at the beginning of a new day, for their lesson. However, to be most effective as a teacher and administrator, a work life balance is crucial. For students, it is no different, they need a life outside of the classroom. For me, although I have engaged in many social activities that have helped give my life a balance, my most favoured extra-curricular activity is exercise. To be successful in work and beyond has required planning and organisation. In previous years, to train and participate in half marathons or 10 km events, I have had to meticulously plan my work day, including meetings, lesson preparation, teaching and marking, as my schedule required, rising at 5am. This was often difficult, however it was always rewarding. Arriving at school, I was far more alert and energised, (often much to the annoyance of my teenage students, who craved sleep). My effectiveness as a teacher benefited from having the energy to engage in professional development, as well as support students in their academic and extra-curricular activities. When speaking to students about the importance of ASC’s and extra responsibilities outside of school, I can speak to them from experience, advising on how to maximise success and avoid procrastination.
Academic research has strongly linked the benefits of extra-curricular activity to higher academic performance. Students who have a full programme of ASC’s such as sport, music, debating are likely to have less absenteeism, improved mental health, as well as greater engagement and attachment to their school identity. There is ample evidence of student improvement in time management, greater confidence in taking on challenges such as leadership, as well as being more focused and resilient. The skills that are developed are different based on the activity chosen. Students who participate in academic clubs build leadership skills, whereas students who participate in athletic clubs develop problem-solving skills (Fredricks & Eccles, 2008). Furthermore, students who contribute time performing in the arts record higher levels of positive self-development (Metsapelo & Pulkkinen, 2012).
Nord Anglia recognises that due to globalisation, skill development for students must go beyond the classroom. The importance of what activities are open to students at break, lunch and after school for development and welfare are key to a successful school and life beyond. All schools in the Nord Anglia group have developed comprehensive sport, arts and academic clubs that challenge students to develop both academically and socially. The key skills of collaboration, communication, leadership, problem solving and organisation are often best demonstrated from students who have a diverse array of interests. Therefore, in order for our students to achieve a school - life balance, as well as being successful, our goal as educators must be to engage them in diverse and exciting extra-curricular programmes.