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Busy boys do better;Secondary

A study being carried out in Bristol suggests that extra- curricular activities such as performing arts improve pupils' success rates at GCSE.

Conducted among 330 Year 9, 10 and 11 pupils at Hartcliffe comprehensive school in a deprived area of the city, the three-year research project has so far revealed that pupils who are "active" achieve consistently higher grades than those who are not.

Backstage involvement, school visits to performances workshop and galleries, and performance itself, are all significant. And the more involved students become, the better their results.

Vic Ecclestone, who has led performing arts extra-curricular activities at Hartcliffe for 25 years, says: "The first year 5 findings show a clear correlation between pupils' involvement in extra- curricular activities and GCSE results.

"Performance does make a difference. When we work with the Birmingham Royal Ballet, Welsh National Opera or the Royal Shakespeare Company-whether it's opera school, the Hartcliffe Boys Dance Company, or drama - students are learning at all sorts of levels."

The research project was launched in 1997 when Bristol was awarded pound;93 million of National Lottery money to build an international Centre for the Performing Arts.

Mr Ecclestone organised a research project with the Bristol amp; West Building Society to present the needs and views of young people to the CPA. The result was a pound;4,000 grant by the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts, which he spent on the three-year research programme, run by the charity Education Extra, on the relationship at Hartcliffe between after school provision and academic performance.

A key finding is the benefits for boys. "Creativity has a huge effect on boys' academic achievement because you're developing the intellectual, the emotional and the physical all together. It works," Mr Ecclestone says.

"It's a rite of passage. It changes those who get involved."

James, a member of the school's boys' dance company for four years, agrees.

"Doing this keeps you on track. It's exciting, when huge audiences clap you on. It gives you confidence and you learn a lot of things.

And it makes you keener on school."

Summaries of Education Extra's report are available from Multi Ltd, 17 Dean Street, Bristol BS2 8SF

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