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After the bell: Canadian students in after-school programs gain higher grades, improved social skills

First-ever study reveals wealth of benefits from after school programs

TORONTO, August 22, 2013 - What are your kids doing after school? According to a 2013 study by the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto, about 15 per cent of Canadian children between the ages of 6-12 are left unsupervised after school, which can lead to trouble. The study, the first of its kind in Canada, analyzed 39 community-based after school programs, drawn from more than 250 programs funded by the RBC After School Project since 1999.

The study shows that high quality after school programs offer a wealth of benefits to kids and families. Children who regularly participate in these programs over the course of several years are more likely to complete their homework, achieve higher grades and result in lower dropout rates. These kids show increased self-esteem, which in turn can improve math and reading scores. Kids in after school programs also show improved social skills and are better able to form secure adult attachments. They have more positive attitudes towards school, with a greater interest in pursuing post-secondary education. 

“The need for quality after school programs in Canada is growing,” says Faye Mishna, dean and professor, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto. “Parents need to ask program coordinators the right questions, and know how to identify the right place for their child after school.” 

Mishna says that a good after-school program:

  • Is provided at least two to three times per week
  • Offers a mix of academic, social and recreational activities that stimulate active learning
  • Offers interesting and developmentally-appropriate activities that become more challenging during the course of the program
  • Involves the family
  • Has a low student-to-staff ratio and low staff turnover
  • Employs staff with post-secondary education and training
  • Offers culturally-sensitive activities and non-judgmental staff
  • Provides fun programs for younger children that focus on helping the child’s reading skills, while programs for high school students should have an unstructured socializing component, tutoring in math and exam preparation, and employment skill development
  • Does rigorous program evaluation to identify effective and ineffective practices

Kids can get involved in risky situations when left alone after school. In fact, there’s evidence that juvenile crime peaks between the hours of two and six p.m, Monday to Friday. A good after school program can provide structure, safety and supervision, helping children achieve success.  The study suggests that program participation over several years generally leads to better overall outcomes.

“There are numerous studies about the impact of after school programs on children in the United States, but we had a difficult time finding similar information about Canadian programs,” said Jasmina Zurovac, director of corporate donations at RBC. “Since 1999, we’ve funded hundreds of after school programs in Canada, so we were in a privileged position to be able to commission this important study based on a significant sample of our own grant recipients.  I’d like to thank the University of Toronto for providing proof positive that after school programs really do help children in Canada realize their full potential.”

About the RBC After School Project
The RBC After School Project is a multi-year philanthropic commitment to support community-based organizations that provide programs for children and youth aged 6-17 with structured, supervised activities that enhance safety, social skills and self-esteem. The RBC After School Project has provided more than $27 million to after-school programs across Canada since 1999, helping almost 29,000 children achieve more successful futures.

RBC supports a broad range of community initiatives through donations, sponsorships and employee volunteer activities. In 2012, we contributed more than $95 million to causes worldwide, including donations and community investments of more than $64 million and $31 million in sponsorships.

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For more information, please contact:

Alicia DeBoer Corporate Communications, RBC, 416 974-2131