Kids clubs are different class

THERE'S more to education than classrooms and blackboards, and after school clubs are today an integral part of school life.

THERE'S more to education than classrooms and blackboards, and after school clubs are today an integral part of school life. Education reporter JAMES MARSTON looks at some of the extra-curricular activities that your child might be signing up for this term.

BEFORE you sign your child up to a different club or class to fill every night of the week, there are some important factors to consider to ensure they get the best out of their time away from the classroom.

Lucy Lloyd, director of communications at the National Family and Parenting Institute, said: “After school clubs can provide children with all sorts of fun and new learning experiences which they might not get at home, ranging from playing football and trying other sports, to going on trips to places that they might not get to visit with their parents,"

"There are also learning activities such as help with homework and problem solving, which for some children is incredibly beneficial since they might not get that help and support elsewhere.

"There are benefits for parents too, since very few people can fit their working hours into school hours, and it can also be a really affordable way to solve that childcare problem, with the added benefit that you see your kids coming back happy after a day out.”

After school clubs also help children to develop their social skills and can give them a confidence boost, explained Jan Fry, director of external relations at Parentline Plus.

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She said: “Many parents are conscious that we live in a competitive world and they want to give their children as many opportunities as possible to develop skills that will help them in later life.

“Sports-based activities can also help children to keep fit and healthy, with team-based sports teaching them about the importance of co-operation and working together, and many parents feel that it is better for their children to be active in a safe environment rather than slumped in front of the TV or playing computer games.”

Despite the obvious benefits of after school clubs, Lucy Lloyd warns that not all children are suited to joining them.

Younger children may find them all a bit too much after a long day in the classroom, she said.

“It may be exhausting for them to be out from early in the morning until after school closes, and sensitive, quiet children - or those going through a particular change - could also find it hard to be with a whole new batch of children and different staff who they haven't been with throughout the day.

“In that case the best solution for parents might be someone based at home or a childminder where more secure, one-to-one care can be given.”

After school activities can place a strain on the family budget and it is important that parents don't feel pressured into booking activities that they cannot afford.

Jan Fry said: “Some activities provided within schools can be free or subsidised, while others may prove expensive, particularly if parents need to buy costly items such as football boots or musical instruments.

“However, some providers offer free taster sessions to allow children to see whether they like the activity before they commit to it.”

The key to finding the best after school clubs is to check the calibre of the staff, whether they have access to training and the proportion who are qualified, Ms Lloyd said.

"The best out of school clubs will be aware that down-time is crucial to children's well-being, and they will balance structured time such as trips, help with homework and learning activities, with unstructured time," she added.

"Some have a chill-out zone for this purpose, or just factor in playground time when the children are able to interact with friends, relax, play and use their imaginations.

“If the clubs are well run by trained and enthusiastic staff then the children should be having a great time there because they are hanging out with their friends in an environment which is totally different to school.”


For those parents who can pick their children up from school and want to engage in positive activities with them, Lloyd recommends taking advantage of this time to talk about their day and pick up on what they need help with, such as homework.

"After that it's about striking a balance between providing them with some structured activity and then allowing them to interact with friends and giving them time to chill out and relax.”

She added: “A lot of parents are increasingly thinking that they need to monitor the amount that their children to watch, and might decide to allow a certain amount of time per day or per week."

Children can also try new skills and make new friends by joining an organisation such as the Scouts or Brownies.

Although there is an initial outlay on uniforms, subscription costs tend to be lower and children can often try it out before committing to a full term.

"Remember that other activities which parents can do with their children don't have to be expensive, just about fun and play," Lloyd advised.

"This can be anything from helping out with the cooking to using everyday objects to make new toys."

IT'S half past three on a Wednesday afternoon and instead of playing video games or watching television, about 40 youngsters are rushing around playing football.

At Whitehouse Junior School, however, football is a popular pastime. The school plays in a league and the beautiful game has always attracted interest.

Team manager Sue Mallet is enthusiastic about getting youngsters -both girls and boys- out of the classroom and on to the football pitch.

She said: “Football is a way of getting children coming out after school and enjoying themselves. Football takes a high profile at Whitehouse and they really enjoy it.”

The 40-minute session starts at 3.15pm with a warm up, there's a bit of training and the club ends with a match.

She added: “There's nothing new about after school clubs. We've been doing this one for 18 years. We have two teams and it is one of the most popular clubs. Its free and its part of school life.”

Teaching the youngsters teamwork as well as keeping them fit, the club is open to all students but isn't compulsory.

“We want them to have fun. If they don't enjoy it then they don't have to stay. We play other schools in a league and we have won the Ipswich schools cup in the past.”

Once a week the club practices for a game.

Sue said: “We provide a kit on match days but it doesn't matter if they lose as long as they enjoy themselves. It is on top of sport and PE that is in the curriculum.

“The youngsters have to get permission from their parents and any pupil that's interested can come along.”

The club has two coaches and acting headteacher Ian Williams is also among the staff that take part in the club. The school's chair of governors is also on hand to help with the session.

Sue, who is also a steward at Portman Road, said: “They love the game at the end of the session. That's the best bit for the youngsters.”

Acting headteacher Ian Williams said school clubs teach youngsters social skills and are a chance for them to enjoy themselves. He added: “There's a variety of clubs available after school. Mostly sports based there is basketball netball, football.

“They are important to tackle obesity and promote healthy lifestyles and the exercise gives children the chance to address these issues.

“It's nice to see the children in a different environment outside of the classroom. You see them in a different light and they see you in a different light.”

The school has a number of other extra-curricular activities including drama club, library club, cooking club, choir, and dance.

Mr Williams added: “If they have a smile on their faces then it's doing them good.”


Does your child's after school club deserve a mention? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email