Out of school activities and the education gap

This project investigates how children aged 5-11 spend their time outside of school, and the implications for their academic attainment. Much is known about the effect of the home learning environment on very young children but less is known about the effects on primary school children. 

Out of school activities include school clubs, music lessons, language classes, childminders, tutoring, and so on. The study examines how these activities vary for children by socio-economic group, gender, ethnicity, family and school characteristics.

The researchers have analysed the latest data from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) and Growing Up in Scotland, with MCS data linked to the National Pupil Database. They have also conducted interviews with parents, children and activity providers, to get a better understanding of the factors that influence how children spend their time, and how activities might affect children’s learning and development.

In addition, the researchers are using a novel approach of building logic models to investigate the strength of different academic theories in explaining any impacts and differences found.

The study aims to provide robust, up-to-date evidence from well-established longitudinal datasets on an important aspect of children’s lives. As well as extending current research on this topic, the findings will be of interest to policy-makers concerned with education, children’s services, social mobility, employment and welfare reform. The findings will have implications for debates about childcare for working parents, the role of schools in out of school provision, the role of the commercial and voluntary sectors, parent involvement and equality of opportunities for children.

Project details


Dr Emily Tanner, National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), and Professor Liz Todd, Newcastle University

Funding programme


Grant amount and duration


1 May 2014 - 31 July 2016