A new systematic review from researchers at Durham University explores the impact of arts education on the cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes of school-aged children aged 3-16, especially disadvantaged children.
The authors found 199 studies that met their inclusion criteria. They considered arts education to include a broad range of subjects, from traditional fine arts to modern dance and movement, hip hop, poetry and creative writing. The majority of studies were about music education or a combination of art forms.
The review found no convincing evidence that demonstrated a causal relationship between arts education and young people’s academic and other wider outcomes, although music (instrumental, music education and music integration) showed promise across all age groups.
The authors rated almost all the studies in the review as providing weak evidence because of serious design flaws, meaning it was difficult to state conclusively what the impact of arts activities in education might be. However, they point out that as a large number of the studies suggest positive effects more rigorous and robust evaluations would be justified.
The Education Endowment Foundation, who commissioned the research, argue that whether or not there is a causal link to attainment, schools should still find space in their day to ensure all children benefit from a stimulating arts education.
Source: Impact of Arts Education on the Cognitive and Non-cognitive Outcomes of School-aged Children: A Review of Evidence (2015), Education Endowment Foundation.