childhood extracurricular activities, UK parents
© Mark Christian

A study of UK parents found that they will pay £28,000 on top of school and living costs, for childhood extracurricular activities until their offspring turn 18

A new study of UK parents has discovered the true price parents will pay for extracurricular activities before their children turn 18, with as many as 77% admitting they feel under huge pressure to find extra cash each week for activities, tuition, sports training and clubs, as school budgets are cut and families are left to plug the gaps.

The findings from the report – Out of School, Out of Pocket, come as head teachers and teaching unions warn that school budgets are not keeping pace with rising student numbers and schools can no longer afford to offer the full range of activities that parents expect.

According to the data six in ten (58%) parents feel they have to find the money because their children simply love their chosen activities, while 35% said they just want to give their offspring every possible chance in life.

Almost one in three (30%) said they want to look back on and say they did as much as they possibly could for their kids, while a further 20% want their children to be more successful than they were.

Over one in ten (11%) admitted they felt guilty if they didn’t give their children every opportunity, while a further 7% admitted they felt pressure to keep up with other parents.

And according to the study, it’s not just the financial burden parents have to shoulder, with the average parent spending 156 hours (that’s six and a half days of every year) ferrying their children to and from activities.

In fact, modern parent’s dedication to their offspring also means the days of lazy weekend lie-ins are a thing of the past, with most of us having to be up and out by 8 am on a Saturday and a Sunday, according to the report.

According to the survey of 2,000 parents by education communications consultancy GK and Partners the average British child does three activities a week with swimming lessons and clubs proving the most popular out of school activity (45%), followed by sports training (28%), dance and ballet lessons (18%) and gymnastics (17%).

Mark Cooper, a spokesperson at GKP, said parents probably felt they had little choice but to splash the cash:

“If cash-strapped schools can’t provide an education in the broadest sense then parents will do what they can to plug the gaps – even if meets cutting back elsewhere.”

But he pointed out that they were doing it for the best of reasons:

“It’s sobering, and somewhat comforting, to learn that the number one reason why parents spend so much money and time on out-of-school activities is that children enjoy them. To be sure, ambition and future success are also significant motivations, but it’s heartening to learn that parents agree to pay for those extra guitar and dancing lessons not principally because they think their children will land a better job, or to impress the neighbours, but because they want to indulge simple childish pleasure.

“That indulgence isn’t cheap. But the spending on activities that can be loosely termed
‘non-academic’ – sports, music and drama – rather than on extra tuition, suggests that parents are interested in giving their children an ‘education’ in the broadest sense rather than merely helping them to improve their school grades.”

One in 10 pay for painting lessons, while a further 10% shell out for drama classes and a hopeful 4% said they pay for extra lessons, tuition and coaching to make the children famous in their chosen field.

A staggering 89% of the mums and dads polled said they thought being a parent was more competitive than it had ever been when they were children.

Over half (51%) of parents admit they are probably putting too much pressure on their youngsters, while 78% claimed their children completely take for granted everything they do for them and 39% saying their children lived in a bubble – unaware of the realities of life.

However, 29% said wrapping their children up in cotton wool was a good thing.

The report shows that the average British parent spends a staggering £355 a year on equipment, kit and lessons which are quit or dumped after as little as two weeks.

What parents will pay for:

• Sports/clubs/training/lessons – £260 a year, £3,380 in a childhood
• Dance/Ballet/clubs/lessons – £208 a year, £2,704 in a childhood
• Drama/clubs/lessons – £156 a year, £2,028 in a childhood
• Extra tuition/maths/English – £468 a year, £6,084 in a childhood
• Musical instruments/lessons – £208 a year, £2,704 in a childhood
• Swimming/lessons/clubs/admission – £312 a year, £4,056 in a childhood
• Gymnastics/self-defence/Judo/Karate – £416 a year, £5,408 in a childhood
• Arts/Painting/lessons/clubs – £156 a year, £2,028 in a childhood

Total: £28,392


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