Research reveals opportunity gap with some councils charging for ‘free’ programme
Reform Scotland, the independent, non-party think tank, has called for the Active Schools programme of extra-curricular activities to be free-of-charge for disadvantaged children.
Extra-curricular activities are fundamental in helping build confidence and resilience, but pupils from poorer backgrounds can often miss out.
Active Schools is an ambitious state-sponsored programme of activities delivered in partnership between Sport Scotland and local authorities, and could still be used to deliver this policy recommendation.
Although Sport Scotland has stated that “Active Schools activities should be free to all children and young people locally”, a new research briefing by Reform Scotland – After school activities: Another opportunity gap – shows that whilst the programme is passed on for free, as intended, in some local authorities, in others an additional charge of up to £48 per activity per term is levied.
The full tables are at the end of the briefing.
Commenting, Reform Scotland Advisory Board Member and former Director of Education Keir Bloomer said:
“Evidence suggests that attendance in after-school activities is associated with positive academic and social outcomes for disadvantaged children in particular.
“As a result Reform Scotland believes that the Scottish Government should consider using some of the budget it has created for closing the attainment gap to ensure disadvantaged pupils have access to free after-school activities. The Active Schools programme offers an easy way of delivering this policy.
“While it is up to local authorities and their leisure trusts to decide and justify their own charging schemes for Active Schools, we hope that they will explain their decision to parents. Even with a nominal fee of £1-2 per week, this can be prohibitive to a struggling family with a couple of children wanting to participate in a couple of activities.
“Ideally, we would want all children to be given an equal opportunity, but as a first step we are calling for all children in receipt of free school meals to also be in receipt of free Active Schools programmes instead of being subject to a postcode lottery as they are at present.”