The five programmes – which include whole-class music, drama sessions and illustration – were independently evaluated by a team from UCL Institute of Education and the Behavioural Insights Team through randomised controlled trials (RCTs).
The evaluations looked at their impact on academic attainment, as well as on skills and behaviours like communication, social skills, and creativity. While the EEF and the RSA believe that all children should have access to arts education opportunities for their own sake and the wider enrichment and enjoyment that they can bring, the focus of the trials was to get more information about whether these types of programmes can help pupils make more progress in reading and writing.
An overarching report – also published today – brings together the key findings and provides guidance to schools and arts organisations on the challenges and opportunities for evaluating cultural learning programmes.
It finds that:
Making substantial improvements to pupil attainment is an extremely challenging barrier to clear. In terms of their impact on literacy skills, the five trials had mixed results, but due to uncertainty in the estimates, it is difficult to say conclusively if the pupils taking part in the five interventions made more or less progress than a similar group of pupils who did not.
But including these types of programmes in the curriculum doesn’t prevent children making progress in literacy. The inconclusive findings do not mean that schools should not implement these programmes or discontinue programmes they already use. Improving pupil academic attainment is not the only reason for schools to implement arts-based interventions in schools and these findings show that they don’t prevent pupils from making progress.
Evaluating arts based education activities through RCTs is challenging. Building evidence of impact on attainment first requires an accumulation of evidence about how interventions affect their most direct, intermediate outcomes. More research is needed to understand how these activities are supposed to improve attainment, before we move to evaluate their impact at scale.
Commenting on today’s reports, Professor Becky Francis, CEO of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:
Mark Londesborough, Head of Education for the RSA, said:
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NOTES TO EDITORS:
1. The full report is available here.
2. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is an independent charity set up in 2011 by the Sutton Trust, as lead foundation in partnership with Impetus, with a £125m founding grant from the Department for Education. The EEF is dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement.
3. The RSA is an independent charity, committed to a future that works for everyone. A future where we can all participate in its creation. The RSA has been at the forefront of significant social impact for over 260 years. Our proven change process, rigorous research, innovative ideas platform and diverse global community of over 30,000 problem solvers, deliver solutions for lasting change.
4. The five arts based education programmes that were evaluated in this programme of work are:
|Organisation||Project||Number of settings (pupils)|
|Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE)||The Power of Pictures||101 (2,674)|
|Arvon, University of Exeter and Open University||The Craft of Writing||94 (2,604)|
|London Bubble||Speech Bubbles||26 (1,006)|
|Paradigm Arts||The Young Journalist Academy||82 (2,137)|
|Tees Valley Music Service||First Thing Music||64 (3,004)|