New partnership to test the impact of different cultural learning strategies in English schools

A new partnership between the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and the Royal Society of Arts will provide up to £2.5m to test the impact of different cultural learning strategies in English schools and early years settings, it was announced today. The programme will be supported by Arts Council England.

The cash will fund the delivery and evaluation of different cultural learning approaches to find out which are most likely to have an impact on academic attainment, as well as skills and behaviours like resilience, self-confidence and creativity. 

The trials will be particularly focused on areas in England where deprivation is high and arts participation is low. They will run alongside other work by the RSA and the Arts Council to grow the evidence base around the impact of arts activities. 

Cultural learning can cover a wide range of different activities and includes opportunities to visit venues, see performances and exhibitions as well as learn through practical activity. 

Today’s announcement follows a review by the EEF that found there was limited high-quality research into the impact different arts approaches have on pupil outcomes. With schools increasingly accountable for the impact of all of their spending decisions on pupil attainment, there is an urgent need for more and better evidence on the relative benefits of different approaches and strategies. 

Applications for the funding is open to arts and cultural organisations, schools, universities and other non-profit organisations. The initial call for projects closes on the 15th February.

 Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:

"All children, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, deserve a well-rounded and culturally rich education. But for schools to be able to commit time and resources to arts activities, it's important that they have access to high-quality evidence of the relative benefits of different arts programmes and approaches, both on attainment and wider outcomes. This is particularly important at a time of curriculum changes and significant pressures on school budgets.

"We're delighted to be partnering with the RSA and others to help add to the evidence base in this important area. The results from this work will help to put schools, government and arts organisations in a much better position to decide between the relative merits of different cultural learning approaches."

Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA, said:

“The RSA believes in both the intrinsic value of arts and cultural engagement in education and in its potential to reduce barriers to children’s learning and engagement. The current decline in provision of cultural learning and arts education opportunities in schools concerns us deeply and we know that a stronger evidence base for their impact are crucial to sustaining their presence and to improving practice. We’re excited to work with EEF, whose reputation for rigorous and robust research underpins the credibility of this project.

“Schools derive a wide range of benefits from engagement in cultural learning activities and these RCTs are part of a wider programme of research to develop a broader understanding of how schools can benefit most. We know that research and evidence are only ever part of the solution, however, and we’re pleased to be working with a broad coalition of practitioners, funders and DCMS to ensure that the evidence can strengthen practice across the sector. “

  1. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is a grant-making charity set up in 2011 by the Sutton Trust as lead foundation in partnership with Impetus Trust (now part of Impetus–The Private Equity Foundation), with a £125m founding grant from the Department for Education. The EEF is dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement. Since its launch the EEF has awarded £80 million to 133 projects working with over 850,000 pupils in over 8,300 schools across England. The EEF and Sutton Trust are, together, the government-designated What Works Centre for Education.
  2. The RSA aims to enrich society through ideas and action. We believe that all human beings have creative capacities that can be mobilised to deliver a 21st century enlightenment. We work to bring about the conditions for this change, not just amongst our diverse Fellowship, but also in institutions and communities. Our work ranges from the future of our cities and communities, to education, moving towards a more creative economy and the redesign of public services.
  3. The EEF and the RSA are supported by Arts Council England and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on this new project.
  4. Details of how to apply for funding can be found here