After-school clubs are too expensive for many parents, putting millions of children at a disadvantage, it has been claimed.
A study carried out by Save the Children found that nearly two-thirds of parents find it difficult to pay for evening activities.
This figure rises to 74 per cent among those living below the poverty line.
More than a fifth of parents spend more than £20 per week on after-school clubs, amounting to £15,000 by the time their child reaches the age of 18.
Commenting on the findings, Sally Copley, head of UK policy at the charity, said: "Children who do after-school activities have more confidence, see the world in different ways, have a stronger sense of identity – and this ultimately translates into doing better in exams and getting a better job."
Fellow children's charity Barnardo's warned last week that many poor young people are being put at a disadvantage by complicated school admissions systems.
The organisation claimed that many parents find these processes difficult to navigate.