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Pupils: Leisure

Volume 487: debated on Tuesday 10 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what assessment his Department has made of the effect of time spent by school children playing computer games and watching television on their school performance. (254893)

The Department has made no such assessment in relation to watching television and school performance by school pupils.

In 2005 the University of Sheffield conducted a study on behalf of DFES of the educational impact of children’s use of computers at home (Valentine et al, 2005). It found that, overall, the use of computers at home was linked to higher levels of educational performance than expected given prior attainment and other factors.

However, where children used computers extensively for leisure purposes, focused predominantly on computer games, there was a small but significant negative impact. The researchers concluded that the negative impact was not a direct result of game playing, but of impact on time spent on school work.

In 2006 the Department commissioned the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) to produce a publication that gave an overview of the current use of games in learning, the impact of such approaches on learning and importantly the needs of the teacher in this context. The publication released by ELSPA on 4 October 2006, “Unlimited Learning: Computer and video games in the learning landscape” offers a snapshot of what is happening across education and, importantly, offers an evidence base from which informed decisions can be taken by industry and education alike.

There is a growing body of evidence that some characteristics of games have a role in supporting learning, but the relationship between learning of this sort and performance requires further research. Becta is working closely with Futurelab to build the evidence base. Games vary considerably in nature. Some games are more appropriately designed for supporting academic performance than others. These others may support other skills such as problem-solving, providing authentic or ‘real life’ learning experiences, making decisions, or communicating with others.

A recent survey by Becta found that 11 to 14-year-olds spend an average of four hours per week playing games, and boys spend twice as much time as girls (Luckin et al, 2008). 80 per cent. of seven to 11-year-olds reported playing games at home (Cranmer et al, 2008).