Out-of-school-time programmes and GCSE performance

This project estimated the effect of out-of-school-time programmes on GCSE performance in England. These programmes refer to any form of activity where children are supervised by adults outside the normal school timetable.

Many 15-year olds participate in such programmes in England, including teacher-led study groups and self-directed study clubs. In teacher-led programmes, the role of the teacher involves a combination of supervision and instruction, while in self-directed study clubs (also called drop-in sessions) the students work together without the teacher.

Key findings:
  • Teacher-led out of school time study programmes are moderately effective in improving overall GCSE performance. For children whose parents are unemployed or in a routine occupation, this improvement is the equivalent of two GCSE grades.
  • Out-of-school-time programmes are available to children from all backgrounds and were offered in the vast majority of secondary schools. However, only 42% of children from disadvantaged families (where the parents are unemployed or from a routine occupation) participated in teacher-led study groups. In contrast, 46% of children from a professional background took part in these groups.
  • Out-of-school-time programmes should be available in all schools that take in any socially disadvantaged children.
  • If the aim of providing out-of-school-time programmes is to increase attainment then they should be teacher-led.
  • Where steps can be taken to encourage greater participation among disadvantaged children, the benefits are worth having in relation to cost. Schools might consider directing at least some of the resources available to them from the Pupil Premium to the provision of out-of-school-time teacher-led programmes for disadvantaged students.

The researchers conducted the study by analysing data from national records (linked to the National Pupil Database) and the Next Steps Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE).

Project details


Dr Nicola Pensiero and Professor Francis Green

Department of Lifelong and Comparative Education, UCL Institute of Education

Grant amount and duration


1 January 2015 - 31 July 2016



Research Briefing: 

Pensiero, N and Green, F (2016) Are out-of-school-time (OST) study programmes an effective way to improve the academic performance of socially disadvantaged children? 14.07.2016

Pensiero, N., & Green, F. (2016). Out-of-School-Time Study Programmes: do they work? Oxford Review of Education, 47 (1), 127-143