Children from disadvantaged families benefit the most from extracurricular activities, but are much less likely to have access to sports, arts or culture, according to Australian researchers.
New research from academics at Flinders University, published as part of Anti-Poverty Week, found that 34% of children in disadvantaged socio-economic communities had not participated in extracurricular activities, compared to 13% richer areas.
The research examined 3,850 adolescents who participated in an existing four-year-old longitudinal study, ages 12-13 to 16-17.
Dr Alex O’Donnell, who conducted the study with Professor Gerry Redmond, said he found that teens who participated in extracurricular activities were more likely to report positive well-being outcomes at school .
The benefits were greatest among those who came from more disadvantaged communities.
âEveryone knows that extracurricular activities are good for young people. They help them develop, âhe said.
âThe interesting part of this research is that we show that some of these drawbacks that accompany experiences of poverty can be minimized through participation in extracurricular activities. “
The study found that children from low-income families who participated in extracurricular activities were more likely to report feeling a sense of belonging to school than those who did not. Their overall mental health outcomes were also better.
“It’s the way children feel at school, if they feel respected, if they fit in, which we know is important for academic success,” he said. declared.
All states and territories except ACT offer vouchers to cover the cost of extracurricular sports and active recreation, valued between $ 100 and $ 200 per child.
Some are means-tested and offered to concession card holders, others are not.
O’Donnell said the vouchers were inadequate because most sports tended to cost hundreds of dollars per child on fees alone.
This was without taking into account the additional costs, such as transportation, which were particular barriers for low-income families and single-parent families.
The vouchers also excluded children interested in other activities, such as music or acting, O’Donnell said.
In some cases, fees for junior sports – such as high performance football – can cost more than $ 1,000.
Sue Hixson, a mother of three from Park Holme in Adelaide, said her family carried a significant financial burden so that her children could participate in swimming, basketball and athletics lessons.
She said swimming lessons for her six-year-old twin daughters cost $ 30 per week, while basketball fees were between $ 200 and $ 300 per season, per child, plus a weekly game fee of $ 10.
“It gets more and more prohibitive the more children you have,” she said. âQuite often, and in most families, what you do for one you provide for all.
âLittle track and field costs $ 100 a season, which is a lot cheaper than, say, basketball. These government coupons help, but for some things they’re stillâ¦ very expensive.â
Another problem with current state bond programs, O’Connell said, was that all jurisdictions except New South Wales only subsidized sport and active recreation, such as dancing. .
He said that activities such as music, theater, camping groups and academic activities such as chess clubs are also beneficial and should be subsidized as well.
âWhen you look at research, things like art and cultural activities tend to be just as effective and sometimes more effective in promoting results for young people,â he said.
âIf we arbitrarily remove support for certain activities, we are essentially leaving large numbers of children out of support systems.
âThese kids may not want to kick a ball or go tackle someone. It is important that we have opportunities for everyone.
Toni Wren, executive director of Anti-Poverty Week, said an effective way to help low-income parents meet these costs would be to raise welfare payments.
She said there were at least 940,000 children growing up in families struggling with income security payments set below the poverty line.
âThat’s almost one in five Australian children aged from birth to 14,â Wren said.
âPoverty affects far too many Australian children and families, diminishing their lives now and in the future. “