More than 100 primary schools are wanted to take part in a new trial to find out if enrichment activities, like visiting museums, boost attainment.
The Children’s University trial will see 3,000 nine and 10-year-olds in England fill in a “Passport to Learning” when they complete activities such as performing arts classes, sports clubs and walking trails.
Children choose their own activities and get their passport stamped when it has been completed.
Last year, the then-education secretary Damian Hinds announced a new, downloadable activity passport, designed to encourage pupils to ditch their gadgets and pursue interests such as climbing trees, searching for butterflies and taking part in a Roman banquet.
The activity passport was part of a drive to boost resilience in children.
The two-year project, funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), follows a smaller trial that found extra-curricular activities had a positive impact on maths and reading results, as well as on attributes like teamwork and social responsibility.
Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the EEF, said: “All young people deserve the chance to access a well-rounded and culturally rich education.
“Yet we know that those from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to take part in the sort of activities that Children’s University provide.”
But Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said schools know that enrichment activities are beneficial to children and young people.
She said such activities have had to fall by the wayside because “there is simply not the money”, Bousted added. “What schools need most is to be adequately funded. That is for government to ensure, not for head teachers to try and conjure up money out of nowhere.”
Children are also wanted to take part in two other trials, which focus on provision available for those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
The SEND review trial, which will involve 150 schools, aims to improve SEND provision in mainstream schools by helping schools evaluate the effectiveness of their provision and implementing an action plan. It is delivered by the National Association for Special Educational Needs.
Meanwhile the Headsprout Early Reading in Special Schools programme, delivered by Bangor University, seeks to improve the reading skills of primary pupils in special schools by using tasks that resemble computer games. The trial will include 1,100 pupils in 110 schools.
Collins said the attainment gap is widest for children with SEND, adding: “Evidence we generate from these trials will provide much needed evidence of how best to support them.”