3 ways to keep your extracurricular provision going

Extracurricular activities provide cultural capital and improve academic performance. But how do you keep it up in a pandemic? Julie Fleming offers some tips
12th November 2020, 12:00pm
Julie Fleming


3 ways to keep your extracurricular provision going


I reflect most on the value of learning outside the classroom when I write student references for their university or apprenticeships applications. 

The current restrictions owing to Covid have raised deep concerns about what we will be able to include in these references next year because students have missed out on the usual extracurricular activities, such as work experience.

Extracurricular opportunities have been shown to improve academic performance. They allow students to unlock new skills, such as problem solving, and improve their self-confidence. Understandably, in the current climate, teachers and schools might not have time to prioritise these opportunities. Teachers are already stretched and anything that adds too much to their already towering workloads is to be avoided. 

Extracurricular activities: what can you do in a pandemic?

However, what if we could offer a version of extracurricular that meets the needs of our students, but is also safe and easy to arrange? These additional activities still have value. The impact they can have on student wellbeing should not be underestimated, and they also have the potential to increase cultural capital - something that can help our most disadvantaged pupils in particular. 

So what can you do to continue to provide these opportunities while sticking to current restrictions, and without adding too much to your workload?

1. Virtual visits

Many organisations such as museums and galleries are now offering their traditional visit experience in an online setting. For example, this year, our annual trip to the Houses of Parliament and the Supreme Court were replaced with Microsoft Teams visits. The experience was completed in an hour, so did not impact on subsequent lessons in the timetable. The virtual environment has the additional benefit of not only avoiding the need for a time-consuming risk assessment but also the expense of travel into London. Check with your usual visit provider about whether virtual tours are available.

2. Professional speaker visits

Professional speaker visits are vital to inspire our students' career aspirations. These crucial visits can be simply be replaced with a Zoom call or recorded interview. This method can be mutually advantageous because the professional does not need to account for travelling time to the school. By using technology that is familiar to students, you may find that they become confident interacting with the professional and even ask more questions. Recording these meetings means that they can be easily shared with students who are isolating so they do not miss out on the opportunity too.

3. Enrichment experiences

Many organisations that support educational professionals with enrichment experiences have adapted their delivery methods to be Covid-safe, so don't assume that the opportunities in your email inbox are not going to be possible. For example, The Citizenship Foundation have modified their Bar Mock Trial so that instead of competing in a Crown Court, students can still demonstrate their advocacy skills against other schools remotely. And Future First, a charitable organisation that works with state schools to build alumni connections, has adapted their employers' sessions to become virtual work placements, so that young people can continue to build their CVs and knowledge of the recruitment process.

Regardless of the challenges created by teaching in a pandemic, a rich extracurricular activity portfolio for students is still available. It can be easily accessed through a few emails and clicks. In some ways, providing students with these enriching and inspiring experiences is more important than it has ever been.

Julie Fleming is curriculum leader of business, law and economics at Sackville School

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