Arts Education has a “Low Impact”

If you click on the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) ‘Teaching and Learning Toolkit’ webpage the first thing you come across is:

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click on this and you are informed that:

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What is the point of this? Why should the arts even be expected to work for the glory of other, maybe, more important subjects? For example, I cannot find out how participation in maths benefits arts learning, which is not surprising: Imagine the furore there would be if it was discovered that studying Maths made a child worse at writing poetry and making pots, maths departments would be immediately closed all around the country!  I jest. The whole point of studying maths is to get better at maths, is it too much to ask that people study the arts in order to get better and know more about the arts?

If it is true that some schools are squeezing their arts provision the EEF toolkit is just the sort of thing that gives ammunition to the utilitarian philistines who think the arts get in the way of ‘proper’ learning. What is the point of this sort of research? As the EEF say: transferability of learning “is not automatic and needs further exploration.” So why the Arts should be charged with such a task God only knows.

Please can we value the Arts for their own sake, a rich way to examine the human condition and our concerns rather than as a means to some other ends?


7 thoughts on “Arts Education has a “Low Impact”

  1. “Art for art’s sake… money for God’s sake?”
    One of the more surprising gaps in the current govt’s philosophy is a realistic grasp on how much the Arts are worth financially to the UK.
    I’m totally with you on NOT needing the Arts to be utilitarian, but when one realises their financial benefit to UKplc it is even harder to understand the EBacc nonsense, and this bizarre fixation that somehow History and Latin are more valuable. Not to mention the fact that for some children the arts is their optimum environment in which to shine and develop their love of learning.
    It may be me who is the cynic, but it seems it’s the current lot that know the price of everything and the value of nothing,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well said Martin. In the case of music the struggle to counter the ‘music makes you smarter ….’ mantra is becoming more and more difficult. So in reply we say that ‘music can be bad for you’.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you! I love that you dig around, read carefully, and ask good questions. Applying the logic in reverse to math shows the foolishness of it all.

    As a UK transplant to the US I find the-way-things-are-done here so rigid (think, ‘Longfellow is read in 8th grade’ and I ask ‘Why?’). I can feel the reverberations of shock among my more rigidly schooling friends when I do such ‘useless’ things as teach highschoolers to write a blog or learn photography history. After all, that doesn’t improve your SAT score. It’s not a core class. No, but the exponential learning is a joy to see. And actually does trickle out into other subjects. A future scientist who undertands design theory can present his ideas more effectively. And an art-oriented student whose tank is full is more willing to tackle the dreaded math. It’s when you start to quantify that effect and aim for it that all the air goes out of the balloon.


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