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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

Publication details

See, B H & Kokotsaki, D (2015). Systematic review of the impact of arts education on the cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes of school-aged children. Education Endowment Foundation.
  • Publication type: Report

Author(s) from Durham


The aim of this review was to examine empirical evidence to establish whether arts participation could lead to improvements in children’s attainment at school and their wider outcomes, and to identify the arts activities with the best evidence of success. A search of 11 databasesidentified 76,195 reports, of which 200 were included for analysis. No studies with high levels of supporting evidence were found because of serious weaknesses in design. Tentative evidence suggests that music training and integrating drama in the classroom may have beneficial effects. These had the largest number of positive studies. Weaknesses in these studies, the lack of replication and inconsistent findings across studies mean that these findings have to be interpreted with caution. More robust and rigorous evaluations are needed to confirm the causal links. However, if improving attainment is the aim then arts may not be the solution. Promising programmes already exist that can boost learning. Given the lack of evidence so far, perhaps we should think more broadly about the purpose of arts. Can it not be just for enjoyment? Must it have a utilitarian function?

School of Education