Young people’s mental health and wellbeing post-COVID: Making Extra-Curricular Activities Impactful

Young people’s mental health and wellbeing
A report earlier this year from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on a ‘Fit and Healthy Childhood’ cited that engaging in activities beyond the home will have a significant impact on young people’s mental health and wellbeing post-COVID. The report argued that extra-curricular activities, in particular sporting events, would help reconnect students with their peers and build resilience. This is supported by numerous research papers which cite that student-focused enrichment activities lead to better lifelong learners (Delcourt, 1993; Hébert, 1993; Westberg, 2010).

How can schools put together an impactful extra-curricular programme?

1. Work out what you are trying to achieve and agree it with all the stakeholders first

Commit to a vision of what your extra-curricular provision will look like. This is important, as Ofsted will expect you and staff to be able to articulate this (Ofsted, 2020). 

2. Ask students what they want

Conduct some student voice and work out what they would like to do after school. This will help ensure the activities are well attended and have the most impact.

3. Ask staff what they want

It is pointless forcing staff to do activities after school as it will then be done poorly and with little enthusiasm. Ask them what they want to do and when. If possible, incentivise it, even if it is just recognising staff at the end of the year with a box of chocolates or bottle of wine. Those little things matter.

4. Sort out kit

Does it matter if they wear PE kit or something they feel more comfortable in? PE kit can have negative connotations for some students. If the event is after school, could you allow them to wear clothes of their choice. You may be able to allow a blended approach (school top but let them wear their own bottoms/trainers for example).

5. Get your pastoral team/SLT to attend and praise students who may struggle with their behaviour in lessons

These little things make a big difference. Agree a rota on who is going to pop in and when. 

6. Buy in interesting activities from external companies

Could you get a climbing wall in for a day? Or get someone in to lead on a specialist activity (such as running or rugby league).

7. Promote it

Use your social media streams to get it out there. Some parents have a distrust of school or literacy issues and reading newsletters is not always the best form of communication. Also, reflect on when you send information out – later in the day or in an evening is often better for engagement.

8. Make sign up easy

Use a simple Teams Form or responding to a text message.

Picture of Author: Adam Gillett
Author: Adam Gillett

Assistant Principal - Inclusion at Penistone Grammar School
Learning and Development Specialist at Minds Ahead

Let's work together to support young people’s mental health and wellbeing post-COVID in schools and colleges

Minds Ahead can support your school, college or event by helping your staff understand the role they can play in strengthening mental health in schools. This ensures that colleagues have increased confidence and understanding of how to support students, each other and themselves.

Find out more about our programmes for teachers and school leaders here.

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All Party Parliamentary Group, ‘The Covid Generation: A Mental Health Pandemic in the Making’, 2021, Available from <A REPORT BY THE ALL-PARTY PARLIAMENTARY GROUP ON A FIT AND HEALTHY CHILDHOOD (> [Accessed on 18th October 2021].

Delcourt, M.A.B., (1993) Creative productivity among secondary school students: combining energy, interest, and imagination. Gifted Child Quarterly 37(1): 23–31.

Hébert, T.P., (1993) Reflections at graduation: the long-term impact of elementary school experiences in creative productivity. Roeper Review 16(1): 22–28.

Ofsted, ‘Ofsted inspections of maintained schools and academies’, 2020, Available from <Ofsted inspections of maintained schools and academies – GOV.UK (> [Accessed on 17th October 2021].

Westberg, K.L., (2010) Young creative producers: twenty-five years later. Gifted Education International 26(2–3): 261–270.