After-school programs help children perform better at school and improve their social skills, according to a study by University of Toronto researchers.
The study, the first of its kind in Canada, found that children who attend these programs regularly over several years are more likely to complete their homework, get higher grades, and have lower dropout rates.
The children were also found to have higher self-esteem and a more positive attitude toward school, as well as a greater interest in pursuing post-secondary education.
According to the study, about 15 percent of Canadian children between the ages of 6-12 are left unsupervised after school. Evidence suggests that juvenile crime peaks between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays.
“The need for quality after-school programs in Canada is growing,” Faye Mishna, dean and professor at the Factor-Inwentash faculty of social work at the University of Toronto, said in a statement.
“Parents need to ask program coordinators the right questions, and know how to identify the right place for their child after school.”
The study analyzed 39 community-based after-school programs which are part of the After School Project funded by RBC.
Attributes of a Good After-school Program
• Offers a mix of academic, social, and recreational activities that stimulate active learning
• Offers interesting and developmentally-appropriate activities that become more challenging during the course of the program
• Is provided at least two to three times per week
• Involves the family
• Has a low student-to-staff ratio and low staff turnover
• Employs staff with post-secondary education and training
• Offers culturally-sensitive activities and non-judgmental staff
• Provides fun programs for younger children that focus on helping the child’s reading skills, while programs for high school students should have an unstructured socializing component, tutoring in math and exam preparation, and employment skill development
• Does rigorous program evaluation to identify effective and ineffective practices