Resources: Study "Role of Arts Education in Enhancing School Attractiveness in the European context: Literature Review"

Published by European Expert Network on Culture (EENC): April 2012

This literature review examined the impact of the arts on students’ engagement with school as well as school attractiveness.    If the current trend is for schools to adopt more market-driven approaches to provision of education, this review sheds some light on the factors which influence school attractiveness – viewed through the eyes of the various stakeholders involved: students, families, teachers, school boards & administrators, as well as community, economy and labour markets.

Whilst the focus has been on literature within the EU, relevant documents from elsewhere in the world have been included where their results have bearing on the European school context.


The paper concludes that there is strong evidence which suggests:

1) The arts improve the social climate of the school and reduce negative social interactions and anti-social behaviour. This directly improves pupils’ perceptions of school and increases the likelihood of the school being seen as being and attractive place by the pupils and teachers.

2) The inclusion of the arts in the school day provides opportunities from communication and emotional development not generally part of other school subjects. An improved emotional connection between pupils and teachers is shown to improve school attractiveness to pupils.

3) Including the arts and culture in a sustained, high quality manner promotes a core ‘liberal’ and broad curriculum; and this leads to improved academic attainment which can increase school attractiveness to parents and policy makers.

Some evidence was found which suggested that an arts-rich school may have: improved quality of teaching and leadership (including cultural sensitivities); and more effective practice for working with pupils with special educational needs

There is weaker evidence to suggest that arts-rich schools may have a positive impact on future employability.

Notable findings

- The arts within education can provide effective learning opportunities to the general student population, yielding increased academic performance, reduced absenteeism, and better skill-building.  Even more compelling is the striking success of arts-based educational programmes among disadvantaged populations, especially at-risk youth. For this segment of society most likely to suffer from limited lifetime productivity, the arts contribute to lower recidivism rates; increased self-esteem; the acquisition of job skills; and the development of much needed creative thinking, problem solving and communications skills.

- Certain abilities are particularly effectively learnt in the arts, such as exploring, imagining, observing and reflecting. Art-rich pedagogy can also promote the development of other competences like intercultural understanding, entrepreneurship or, put simply, “learning to learn”.  It may increase cultural understanding, enjoyment and achievement and identity amongst other attributes.

- Through creating in the arts, pupils gain self-confidence.

- A UK study conducted which examined young people’s motivation concluded that pupils were most likely to be (and feel) engaged where they had a sense of achievement, growth and enjoyment. Arguably, these characteristics are more likely in the arts activities as these are not likely to have ‘right and wrong’ answers nor pre-determined age related outcomes.  According to the study, adolescents placed a high value on activities that allowed them to meet new people and make friends. Similarly, they wanted to gain skills and feel they were helping improve society or solve a problem.

- Children must experience high quality arts education for the positive impacts of arts education on school attractiveness to become apparent. The results from the global study of arts education suggest that in around ¼ of all instance of arts education, the quality is so low as to negatively affect a child’s artistic and creative development. Given this, it is imperative that the arts education reaches certain levels of quality; and this quality is available for all children – regardless of their artistic skills and abilities, initial motivation, behaviour, economic status or other entering attributes. Providing classes for talented or interested students only cannot be considered as providing a comprehensive education for all.

Further research: The study recommended that more research studies be conducted into:

- The impact of the arts on school attractiveness in terms of attracting and retaining effective school leaders and quality teachers

- The impact of the arts on school attractiveness in terms of pupil retention and reduction in school ‘drop outs’ (reducing early school leaving)

- The impact of the arts on school attractiveness in terms of improving employability and or community perceptions of pupils from particular school settings

- The comparative impact of the arts on school attractiveness in terms of different school ‘client’ groups such as those from different social classes, levels of aspiration, boys and girls, rural and/or city children, those with special education needs and so on.

- More specific research about exactly the type and quality of arts experiences (including across the different art forms) lead to particular levels of positive impact on school attractiveness.


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