There has been much discussion in educational policy on the apparent educational benefits for disadvantaged young people of engaging in schools’ extra-curricular activities (ECAs). The evidence suggests strong associations between ECAs and improved educational attainments. Arguments made about the causal processes and underpinning associations tend to revolve around individualised notions of transfer and in particular the suggestion that ECAs develop various ‘non-cognitive’ skills of transferable educational relevance. In reviewing key literatures, we argue that such a notion cannot be justified. Instead, our analytical contribution to the field suggests that learning and development generally, and the possibilities of school ECAs specifically, should be understood through the Deweyan notions of experience and temporality. Such notions suggest that the way young people experience ECAs and mainstream classrooms should not be viewed through the lens of transfer but instead be seen as part of a set of integrating experiences of life as event, that includes and yet goes beyond schooling, and that suggests young people’s fullness of life as a unit of analysis. Our line of argument, therefore, suggests that the deployment of school ECAs as currently constituted cannot have generalisable predictive power in specifying causal outcomes for improved academic attainment.