Arts participation is defined as involvement in artistic and creative activities, such as dance, drama, music, painting, or sculpture. It can occur either as part of the curriculum or as extra-curricular activity. Arts-based approaches may be used in other areas of the curriculum, such as the use of drama to develop engagement and oral language before a writing task.
Participation may be organised as regular weekly or monthly activities, or more intensive programmes such as summer schools or residential courses. Whilst these activities, of course, have important educational value in themselves, this Toolkit entry focuses on the benefits of Arts participation for core academic attainment in other areas of the curriculum particularly literacy and mathematics.
Overall, the average impact of arts participation on other areas of academic learning appears to be positive but moderate, about an additional three months progress.
Improved outcomes have been identified in English, mathematics and science. Benefits have been found in both primary and secondary schools.
Some arts activities have been linked with improvements in specific outcomes. For example, there is some evidence of the impact of drama on writing and potential link between music and spatial awareness.
Wider benefits such as more positive attitudes to learning and increased well-being have also consistently been reported.
There is intrinsic value in teaching pupils creative and performance skills and ensuring disadvantaged pupils access a rich and stimulating arts education. Arts participation may be delivered within the core curriculum, or though extra-curricular or cultural trips which can be subject to financial barriers for pupils from deprived backgrounds.
There is some evidence to suggest a causal link between arts education and the use of arts-based approaches with overall educational attainment. Where the arts are being taught as a means to boost academic achievement for those eligible for the pupil premium, schools should carefully monitor whether this aim is being achieved.