As the world begins to turn again, one of the things most impacting on children in schools is the re-commencement of their favourite after-school and lunchtime clubs. I have had several conversations with my own pupils this week about the various clubs that are resuming; the joy on their faces at the thought of doing the things they love again says it all.
Pupils’ participation in clubs outside of their school day is undeniably an important part of maintaining their mental, physical and social wellbeing. The benefits of extra-curricular activities are well documented, and include:
- Boosting academic performance
- Developing new skills
- Broadening social interactions
- A sense of belonging
- Improving time management
- Increasing mental wellbeing
- Improving physical fitness (depending on the nature of the activity)
The government document ‘An Unequal Playing Field’ (Social Mobility Commission) identifies the importance of extra-curricular activities for school-ages pupils, and points out that there is an unequal distribution of extra-curricular opportunities between areas of high and low wealth in the UK.
Dance has long been considered the sport of the middle classes; the Arts Council regularly discuss social class and mobility within the arts in their publications. Ensuring dance and performing arts is being offered as part of every school’s extra-curricular is the first step to enabling pupils of all backgrounds to experience dance and the myriad of benefits that come with it.
Placing dance within your extra-curricular clubs doesn’t need to be difficult, or expensive. Using a local dance company is one way of providing specialist lessons, but I am only too aware of the budget constraints on schools and the hourly rate for a dance specialist might only have an impact on 20-30 pupils at a time.
Another way to be able to offer extra-curricular dance is to enable your own staff within school to deliver the sessions. Yes, it can be done! With the wonders of technology, and the now wide-spread use of interactive whiteboards and smart screens, video teaching is a cost-effective way of running a dance club in school.
We (Primary Dance UK) design our resources to do just this. It has always been my vision to be able to equip any teacher, regardless of dance experience, to be able to deliver dance lessons to their pupils. I feel just as strongly that lunchtime staff, support staff and teaching assistants should be able deliver extra-curricular dance clubs, and with our resources this is possible, cost effective and simple to implement.
So here’s to the start of the long walk…or dance… towards normal, for us and for all of our pupils.