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Extending learning beyond traditional academic priorities, including careers education, and participation in the arts and sports.


This theme brings together the evidence on a diverse range of approaches that seek to enrich children’s school experience. 

These approaches may happen during or outside of normal school hours and may seek to pursue academic goals through non-traditional means (eg, improving maths by playing chess); develop children's character (eg, their motivation or resilience); or pursue wider goals because these are held to be important.

At the EEF, we think enriching education has intrinsic benefits (sometimes referred to as "arts for arts' sake"). We think all children, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, deserve a well-rounded, culturally rich, education. 

However, many go beyond this and argue that enrichment approaches can directly improve pupils’ attainment and it is this link that EEF is particularly interested in.

Toolkit strands

Evidence Summary

Our Teaching and Learning Toolkit contains several strands relevant to this theme. The overall impact of enrichment activities on academic achievement tends to be positive, but small. 

Of course, the activities may have intrinsic or other related benefits. For example, there is some evidence that enrichment activities, such as sports participation, may lead to small improvements in attendance. There is moderate evidence that outdoor adventure learning can have a positive impact on attainment. 

Conversely, the evidence suggests that approaches focusing solely on pupils’ aspirations are unlikely to improve attainment.

Given the complex nature, and limited evidence of impact on attainment of enrichment activities, it is important to think carefully about what you are intending to achieve. It is also important to consider carefully whether such activities should replace curriculum-linked activities, as this might have a negative impact on attainment.


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The evidence from the Teaching and Learning Toolkit indicates that both sports and arts participation can have small, but positive, impacts on attainment. However, the quality of the existing evidence in this area is low, as indicated by a literature review on arts education the EEF published in 2016. Following this, the EEF and the RSA have jointly launched a Cultural Learning initiative to test the impact of a range of high-potential projects on attainment, as well as a range of essential skills.

Careers education is important in giving young people the right advice to make to make well-informed, relevant choices and plans for their future. The EEF published in 2016 a literature review on careers education (supported with a grant from the Bank of America Merrill Lynch). The review focused on three kinds of outcomes: educational; economic and employment; and social outcomes. It identified a number of characteristics of good careers education, but also highlighted that the quality of the existing evidence is low. The EEF, in partnership with the Careers and Enterprise Company and supported again by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, is funding a number of high-potential projects to help build the evidence base.