Report: Learning by Doing – June 2015

“Learning by Doing” – a report by published by Demos on 29th June 2015.

Educating for the development of character is back on the agenda and is likely to define Education Secretary Nicky Morgan’s tenure. Yet the high-stakes accountability of Ofsted inspections and league tables has in recent years led to schools too often turning inward to focus on preparing students to pass exams. There are too few opportunities to take part in ‘non-formal learning’ activities in schools: activities that can help young people to build vital character attributes.

The evidence suggests that character attributes not only reinforce academic learning but also have a significant positive influence on various later life outcomes, including those relating to health, wellbeing and careers. It also indicates that participation in non-formal learning activities – semistructured activities such as sport, drama and debating, which are primarily delivered outside the classroom – play a vital role in developing these attributes. In this report we present our research into whether non-formal learning is sufficiently embedded into the British education system.

Our research shows that large numbers of young people in the UK – particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds – do not have enough opportunity to take part in non-formal learning and are therefore at risk of not developing key skills important for success. Moreover, an overwhelming majority of teachers see non-formal learning as vital, and want to see it more strongly embedded into the education system.