Cultural Learning Alliance

From our first consciousness until our last, we should sing every song and dance every dance from every part of the world as we go on our journey to become the men and women we are

David Lan
Artistic Director, Young Vic


Finding 1: Attainment

Learning through arts and culture improves attainment in all subjects

  • Taking part in drama and library activities improves attainment in literacy
  • Taking part in structured music activities improves attainment in maths, early language acquisition and early literacy
  • Schools that integrate arts across the curriculum in America have shown consistently higher average reading and mathematics scores compared to similar schools that do not

UK evidence shows that studying arts subjects increases confidence and motivation – things that equip pupils to learn. A systematic review of international evidence found that participating in structured arts activities led to increases in transferrable skills (including confidence and communication) of between 10-17%(1).  The Right to Read programme reported increases in social skills and self esteem(2). In the US, large cohort studies of 25,000 students done by James Catterall show that taking part in arts activities increases student attainment in maths and literacy, with particularly striking results for students from low income families(3). 

“Our analysis of the NELS:88 survey established, for the first time in any comprehensive way, that students involved in the arts are demonstrably doing better in school than those who are not” Catterall, Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art, 2009

For example at age 16 41% of students from low income families who engage in the arts score in the top two quartiles of standard academic tests compared to 25% of students from the same backgrounds who do not(4). Other studies echo these results with Ruppert finding that students who take arts classes have higher math and verbal SAT scores than students who take no arts classes(5).

Research shows specific art forms have specific benefits, for example studies have shown that high levels of involvement in instrumental music result in significantly higher maths proficiency. Taking part in drama results in gains in reading proficiency, motivation and empathy for others. Young people using libraries read above the expected level for their age, young people who don’t read below the expected level(6).


(1) Culture and Sport Evidence Programme (CASE), Understanding the impact of engagement in culture and sport (London: DCMS, 2010), 29.

(2) Viv Griffiths, Susan Blishen and John Vincent, Paul Hamlyn Foundation Reading and Libraries Challenge Fund: Right to Read 2001 - 2005: summary of the current outcomes (London: Paul Hamlyn Foundation, 2007)

(3) James Catterall, Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art (Los Angeles: I-Group Books, 2009)

(4) Catterall, Doing Well, 5.

(5) Sandra S Ruppert, Critical Evidence: How the Arts Benefit Student Achievement (National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, 2006), 9.

(6) Results are drawn from an online survey of 17,089 pupils aged 8 to 16 from 112 schools, conducted in November and December 2009. Christina Clark and Lucy Hawkin, Public Libraries and Literacy (London: National Literacy Trust, 2010)

Lou and sketch books, Canterbury Children's Centre
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