Extracurricular activities are those that fall outside the standard realm of academics and study, commonly chosen by students based on their unique interests. As well as giving an opportunity to discover passions and talents, engaging in enrichment activities has been widely acknowledged to contribute to a child’s social and emotional development. By extending a child’s social networks beyond their typical circles, extracurriculars can help build confidence, teamwork and creativity.
Of particular importance to Catch22, who run a wide range of “cradle-to-career” public services, extracurricular activities have also been found to be critical in shaping a child’s further education and career aspirations. For instance, Mahoney and colleagues show that consistent participation in extracurricular activities has the potential to enhance students’ career motivation and set ambitious goals for their future education and career objectives.
Our Catch22 schools provide alternative and special education for young people displaying a wide range of complex barriers to education, including those who are excluded or at risk of exclusion. and those with social, emotional and mental health needs or special educational needs. Our schools try to make extracurricular opportunities as accessible as possible. In doing so, the outcome is an instillation of career aspiration and a chance for students to explore the industries into which they might transition post-16.
The Brunel Academy, a specialist learning provision for students whose needs cannot be met in a mainstream environment, has driven a particular focus on its extracurricular offer. One such opportunity they have opened for students is to attend Sound Communities, an external provider used by the school to broaden its scope of vocational experience in a creative field. Sound Communities works to reach marginalised young people to engage and innovate using radio, music and creative media production. Their work develops creativity, improves mental health, inspires confidence, raises aspirations, increases skills, and fosters agency.
Sound Communities runs workshops at the Brunel Academy on a Friday, which is how they first met Ben around 18 months ago. During these sessions Ben expanded his skills in a variety of creative areas; writing and performing songs, learning studio recording expertise, producing radio shows, and working to create a wealth of digital and social media content, including his own photography. Sound Communities supported Ben in achieving AQA unit awards to recognise his learning, having accomplished certificates in radio, DJing, photography and fundraising.
Ben graduated to helping with other Sound Communities’ sessions. For example, he voluntarily helps run the Saturday Ocean Youth radio station, assisting with tech setup, promoting via social media and then editing the recordings. Ben also helped organise a 24hr radio show in aid of UNICEF’s work in Ukraine. He stayed for the entirety of the show which ended up raising over £2000 providing direct support to young people in Ukraine.
Ben has shown such dedication and commitment to Sound Communities that he has been offered a part-time official job there, using the skills he’s picked up to assist with and produce their Saturday radio shows. This is a great foot-in-the-door for Ben’s future career goals, which he tells us are to “set up a café with a gallery in it displaying his own photography”. It’s certain that the marketing, promotion, and creative skills he has acquired at Sound Communities will support him in this endeavour.
The Brunel Academy’s partnership with Sound Communities is one example of the innovative ways schools can use the extracurricular opportunities available in their local community to support students in raising their professional aspirations and finding sustainable and fulfilling career options.
When asked about the impact that extracurriculars has had for him, Ben said:
“Sound Communities definitely changed me – but I was definitely on the road to changing myself, too.”