School is not all about academics, and extracurricular activities are becoming increasingly more important to students’ lives. However, these activities can go by many names, which can become very confusing for pupils. This is particularly true when students cannot be sure what the word refers to. With different places having different meanings, or programmes, all of which are referred to as enrichment, it can be easy to get lost and become unsure of what you are actually signing up for. In this article, we will explain what enrichment is in schools, as well as how to ensure that you get the best experience out of it, to benefit your future.
Enrichment is essentially any school opportunity which is not directly required by the curriculum. This most often involves clubs and groups such as orchestras and sports teams. However, it also includes school trip opportunities and other development opportunities within lessons such as extended projects. Enrichment allows students to develop their skills and traits like resilience and teamwork. It also means that students stay engaged in learning, and gives underprivileged pupils the chance to try activities they may not otherwise have taken part in.
While this should have given you a short answer to your questions about enrichment, for more details including tips on how to best use enrichment to enhance your university and job applications, please read on.
Table of Contents
Is school enrichment an extracurricular activity?
School enrichment can mean anything in school outside of the official curriculum. This can include clubs, sports days, school trips, and much more. It can also include activities within lessons which are not specifically curricular, such as extended projects.
Enrichment is increasingly being recognised as an important part of education. It gives students the chance to learn beyond the curriculum and makes school more fun. It also allows schools to make subjects more interesting to students, creating meaningful connections to learning which make it more rewarding.
Students who may not be able to get such experiences outside of school, such as those from disadvantaged backgrounds, benefit hugely from school enrichment. It also benefits more able pupils, allowing them to explore areas of interest in depth. However, enrichment is good for all pupils.
Therefore, while school enrichment is technically an extracurricular activity, it often works alongside the curriculum to enhance what learning is already taking place. It means that students learning happens within a wider context and creates more interest in the topics studied. This means enrichment is one of the most important parts of learning.
Are school clubs enrichment?
School clubs are one of the easiest ways for schools to create enrichment. They take place outside of the lesson timetable, which means that teachers can continue to teach as normal. Any school club could be an enrichment opportunity for students.
The chance to take part in an enrichment club gives students the chance to develop their social skills, and work in teams. It can also help them work out what activities and subjects they are passionate about, which is especially useful at secondary school where students are applying to sixth form and universities.
Almost any club could be an example of enrichment. Activities like sports teams, coding or games design clubs, and board games such as chess are some of the most common groups held by schools. Most schools also hold a sports day, which is a great form of enrichment for teamwork and competition.
However, enrichment is not only for students who love sports and science. Music lessons and groups are great enrichment opportunities, along with school plays which help students learn to work collaboratively and develop confidence.
Furthermore, events like World Book Day, where pupils dress up and take part in activities related to a larger topic are a good example of enrichment. For many students this helps them find a love for reading which structured lessons may not give them. Raising money for charities or collecting for food banks alongside this helps students develop awareness of the world around them and teaches them to help others.
Does everyone have to do enrichment?
There is no requirement for schools to provide enrichment, as it is by nature outside of the curriculum. However, it is highly encouraged by the Department for Education (DfE) and by Ofsted.
Ofsted emphasises pupils’ personal development when they report on schools after inspection. They also look for schools extending the curriculum beyond academic achievement. Therefore, a school which provided no enrichment would almost certainly not pass an Ofsted inspection.
This government page on Ofsted reports suggests that schools are required to focus on “real learning” (through enrichment), rather than teaching cramming for exams.
Some of the ways Ofsted define this include enabling students to develop their character (traits such as independence, resilience, and confidence), as well as their interests and talents. It says schools should teach pupils how to stay physically and mentally healthy and prepare them for future success, creating responsible and active citizens.
While much of this does come under the national curriculum, it can all also come from enrichment activities. Therefore, enrichment is a key part of school life and education which every pupil should get the chance to take part in.
It is also hugely valuable to students. Please see the section below on why enrichment is so important for more information on the key benefits enrichment can bring to pupils’ lives.
Why is enrichment important in school?
Enrichment is one of the most exciting parts of school for most students, and one of the most memorable. However, it is also incredibly important for students.
As suggested above, students who take part in enrichment don’t just learn the curriculum, but also key skills and values which mean they will be a kind and compassionate member of society. It allows schools to provide an education which is culturally rich as well as academically rigorous, enhancing learning.
Enrichment means that pupils can try new and different activities, which is particularly valuable to students from underprivileged backgrounds who may not otherwise get these chances. This experience develops resilience, as well as introducing pupils to new goals and potential careers.
These activities are particularly key because they are not in the curriculum, as they mean that each child can have a unique experience of education which is tailored to their interests and needs.
Enrichment also teaches life skills, helping students for their whole lives even after school. It develops teamwork and understanding of social issues and responsibilities which are so important in society.
When does enrichment happen in school?
It might be easy to assume that enrichment only happens outside of lessons, such as in after school clubs. While these are key sources of enrichment, they do not make up the whole of the opportunities schools give pupils to enrich learning.
Lesson time often contains much enrichment which we simply believe to be part of learning. Things like extended learning projects or putting on assemblies are enrichment activities which help pupils develop key skills.
Furthermore, school trips are a great part of enrichment which allow pupils to see their learning in action. They are one of the most memorable parts of school for most pupils, and therefore are so important to keep students engaged in their subjects.
Residential visits are also a feature of many enrichment programmes in school. They develop independence and allow students to see new places which they otherwise may never visit.
Furthermore, particularly at primary level, forest school activities are becoming increasingly more common. This is a great opportunity for enrichment, as it also teaches connections with the natural world, developing understanding of biology, while also being proven to lower stress levels. More information on this can be found here, from the Forest School Training organisation.
Enrichment can also happen in the community, with many schools choosing to go out and do litter picks or visit care homes for example to sing carols. These opportunities teach pupils the value of community care, while also increasing confidence and allowing them to make a difference in the world.
What enrichment is best to choose in school?
Generally, it is a good idea to choose a wide range of enrichment activities to make sure that you get the most diverse education possible.
In my opinion, students should ideally choose a sport, a creative activity, and something to help the community. For example, you could take part in the bikeability scheme (which teaches students how to safely ride a bike), or a dance club, and an art club or music lessons. You could also help on the school council, or volunteer with the school choir to sing carols to raise money for charity.
These are specific examples to get you thinking, but it will depend on what your school offers.
Overall, choose what interests you as this is what will make school fun. However, do not be afraid to push yourself and try something new. This is what enrichment is for, after all, and all clubs will be happy to have people try out their activities.
If you know you have a particular interest, but your school does not yet have a club for it, why not suggest starting one? The leadership experience will be brilliant for your confidence and skills, and it will give other people a chance to take part as well. If you want to start an enrichment group at school speak to your teachers, as they will advise you on how you could go about this.
Can school enrichment help you get into university?
Enrichment is one of the best ways to make your personal statement sound exciting when you apply to university. Taking part in clubs and activities related to your subject means that you will have more understanding of your area of study too, which is great in interviews.
School enrichment can also help you to demonstrate key skills which universities are looking for in students. Traits such as leadership, teamwork and resilience are particularly sought after by universities. These can easily be demonstrated by enrichment activities, for example if you play for a team sport.
Furthermore, taking part in subject specific activities is a great way to boost your personal statement and understanding. Subjects often have competitions which you can take part in through school, such as the maths challenge, coding competitions, and young musician events. These can demonstrate skills and understanding even if you do not win, so make sure to include them!
However, if you do not want to compete, leadership and commitment to a club or group (even if it is not related to your subject) can help you demonstrate the key skills mentioned above. Furthermore, universities want students to be able to contribute to their communities, and therefore including these skills and interests makes you an attractive student!
For more ideas on the best enrichment for university applications, please see this Think Student article. Furthermore, Think Student also has some great personal statement tips including ideas about using enrichment activities which can be found here.
Should you only do enrichment that is relevant to your future career goals?
Enrichment is a great opportunity to further your skills, no matter what it relates to. Therefore, it is important not to restrict yourself to only the things you think you want to do in the future. If you have other interests, it is important to also keep these up.
Enrichment allows you to make school fun and personalise your experience, making friends and learning things that interest you rather than just what you are required to learn. To choose only what is relevant to your future would be a waste of opportunity. It also restricts your understanding of what you truly enjoy to just what you like now.
Ultimately, while enrichment can be a great thing to add to your CV, and a boost when applying to university, it should be enjoyable and make you want to go to school. Choosing a range of activities means you can broaden your understanding, as well as developing key skills which may not come easily within your subject alone.
For more information about including extracurriculars in your CV, please visit this Think Student article. While it is mainly about listing qualifications, it also has some great tips on listing clubs and other groups, as well as helpful links to other articles about CV writing.