Give extracurricular activities some star quality

Chris Baldwin explains how schools can engage pupils with after-school activities

As schools break up for half-term and look ahead to the summer, the holiday plans are starting. For many pupils that will include a visit to the cinema.

Will it be Wonder Woman, The Mummy or Spider-Man (Homecoming)? Maybe it will be another in the Transformers franchise or the new Pirates of the Caribbean film – or perhaps even a return of the minions with Despicable Me 3: We don’t yet know which heroes or villain will win as the battle of the Summer blockbusters get underway at the UK’s cinemas, but we do know who will decide. It will be young people – many of them school age.  

Together, 7-14 year olds and those 15-24 make up 45% of all cinema admissions, according to the British Film Institute. It’s not just the films either, it’s the whole experience – the big screen, the popcorn and the company. Cinemas also increasingly offer live screenings of events, theatre and concerts, too. Despite the prevalence of online streaming services and movies on demand, young people still love a night at the movies. And that may be something schools can use in another area – extra-curricular activities.

There’s strong evidence such activities can benefit pupils. In the jobs market, research shows that 70% of businesses believe extra-curricular activities make school leavers and graduates stand out from the crowd. Before that, they play an increasing role in university admissions.

But those pupils willing to join in with these activities aren’t always those who could benefit most, and some extra-curricular activities, no matter how beneficial they are, prove a hard sell. Young people on the whole like watching movies in their free time; they’re not always so keen on science club, homework help and extra maths tuition.

But perhaps schools can change that. Most don’t want to force young people to participate in extra-curricular activities, but we can encourage them. A free night at the movies, as a reward for participating, may be the way to do so.

Eyes on the prize

While cinema is hugely popular among school-age children and teenagers, it’s not always accessible to them. For older pupils or parents, the rising price of tickets is off-putting. Close to three quarters (72%) of 16-24 year olds say it’s the key reason they would avoid the cinema.

It’s not surprising, then, that free tickets are widely and successfully used as incentives in a whole range of settings, including schools. They make an excellent reward: well-loved, flexible (since people can usually choose their film), suitable for all, and – more than most vouchers – self-contained; a £5 or £10 voucher does not go far in a retail environment, but a ticket or pair of cinema tickets is, in itself, a valued reward.

Free tickets provide schools with a cost-effective way to reward regular attendance, achievements or behaviour at extra-curricular activities. They can be used as a general incentive to encourage participation; a shared experience to reward and bind teams or clubs together; or a way to promote inspiring or relevant films, whether it’s historic biopics or adaptions of a curriculum text.

There’s a final factor, too, that makes cinema tickets an attractive incentive not just for pupils, but also for schools: they’re easy to administer. That’s particularly true as both schools and cinemas have moved online.

Online portals and apps, used for homework assignments, school news, payments and communication with parents, are widespread. These also provide an effective, easy-to-use platform through which to promote incentives, track attendance and deliver rewards. No more vouchers getting lost at the bottom of school bags – if they get brought home at all; pupils or parents can just log-on, get their codes and book their seats in the local cinema online.

As schools search for ways to ensure they’re being effective with their resources outside the class a well as in, such incentives could be the one to watch.

Chris Baldwin is Director of Consumer Programmes at Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services.

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