Out-of-hours learning in primary and secondary makes pupils fitter - physically and intellectually. But many of the most disaffected remain difficult to attract to after-school programmes.
A review of the study support programme (SSP) and out of school hours learning (OSHL) shows strong teacher and pupil support for the benefits of more informal work.
Local authority co-ordinators believe the provision, backed by pound;34 million over three years, also influences attainment, self-confidence, study skills, motivation to learn and levels of physical activity.
But researchers from the SCRE Centre at Glasgow University urge caution.
"Even with robust monitoring in place it could be difficult to attribute positive outcomes solely to SSPOSHL because other initiatives with similar aims are present in schools," they state.
Almost all secondaries and three out of four primaries now run some form of out-of-hours programme to tap into the five national education priorities.
Almost half (48 per cent) of the staff involved are paid, although this varies within authorities.
Activities on the increase relate to pupils' broader development, promote physical activity and ease the transition between primary and secondary.
Secondaries continue to focus on pushing pupils to better exam results.
Teachers are sympathetic to more generic learning but pupils and parents want help with subject-specific activities. In contrast, primaries are developing broader programmes.
"Overall, SSPOSHL is becoming increasingly embedded in schools, it is seen as having a positive impact and teachers appear eager to maintain this provision," the researchers say.
"However, many schools found it difficult to attract disaffected young people and those identified as at 'marginal risk' into SSP OSHL programmes and activities. These pupils are more likely to be subject to pressure from peers not to attend after-school activities."
Work with the disaffected was most successful on a one-to-one basis where a rapport could be established. Lunchtime study proved popular, as did multi-agency work, residential and outdoor activities, and incentive or reward schemes.
Insight 22: Study Support and Out of School Hours Learning in Scottish Schools. By Kevin Lowden, Linda Garside and John Hall at the SCRE Centre, Glasgow University. The full report is on the Scottish Executive website.