Updated: Nov 11, 2019
Many schools pride themselves on the number of ECA’s they have on offer, I have visited schools where the choices are literally in the 100’s! Striking the balance between giving your child the opportunity to extend themselves in some way versus having some down time and enjoying their childhood is always a challenge.
To help you and your child make good choices we look at the benefits of some of the different extra curricular activities on offer.
Whether sport comes easily or is more of a challenge, the benefits of taking part in sporting activities are clear aside from being good for fitness. Being part of a team helps to develop teamwork, responsibility to others and communication skills, whilst individual sports instil a strong ethic of discipline, practice and perseverance.
Extracurricular sports often offer a chance to try out something new or to enjoy a familiar sport for fun, rather than competitively. Whether it is golf or fencing, boxing or ballet trying something new gives children a chance to experiment and see if it is something they will enjoy.
This was once described to me as an adrenaline fuelled team sport, and is another excellent way of developing teamworking skills. There is a role for everyone in this team, for the techie there are lights and music to work with, for the practical there are sets to be built and costumes to be designed, for the business orientated there are programmes to be produced and shows to be promoted and for the thespians there is a role with their name on it. But crucially, all of these roles are interdependent and there is no show without everyone playing their part. And anyone who has been part of a school production will remember the elation of a show well done when the memories of the rehearsals fade into the background as the applause lifts the team to a new high.
The opportunity to get involved in debating whether as part of a school team, competing in the World Scholars cup or taking part in Model United Nations, is a great way of developing research and presentation skills. It encourages children to engage with a broad range of topics creating arguments for and against anything from climate change to human rights issues. It develops an awareness of current affairs and helps students to form their own opinions on some of the most challenging topics. In the debating environment, student’s learn to think on their feet, to defend a point of view they may not necessarily believe in and to work together in a team in clearly defined roles. All these skills are particularly well regarded by Universities and future employers.
Tech after school clubs come in many guises whether it is teaching young ones coding by programming simple toys, to teenagers learning to build robots or learning how to produce Vlogs or Podcasts. There is a way in for everyone who is interested in keeping up their tech skills up to date. These areas help to build highly valued STEM skills in a fun and creative environment. Children learn to problem solve and gain expertise in tech areas and for many it can ignite a life long interest in the rapidly changing world of technology.
Many schools arrange opportunities for their pupils to get involved in volunteering activities. These can vary from mentoring younger students in the school community to taking part in outreach work with partner organisations, supporting children or workers who are less fortunate than themselves. Volunteering raises awareness of the needs of others, creates a culture of service and purpose as well as help students to develop their confidence levels and leadership skills in a different environment.
The many benefits of ECA’s are clear – they are a great opportunity to develop interests and skills that are not necessarily part of a classroom experience. They offer a chance to broaden a child’s friendship circle and maybe to get to work with students in years above or below them, integrating them fully into the school community.
The opportunities to extend your child technologically, academically, or physically extracurricular activities means they can develop an area of interest over and beyond the curriculum. By taking a balanced approach they will become a well rounded individual with a range of talents and valuable transferrable skills.
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