Does studying arts benefit secondary school aged students and the economy?

We chat to Sophie about her research and her top Arts Award tips!

ART31 Youth Board member Sophie is currently taking her Gold Arts Award. She’s researched the impact that studying the arts can have on secondary school aged students, as well as the effect the arts can have on the economy. We asked Sophie a few questions about her research, and what it’s like taking a Gold Arts Award. Keep reading to find out her top tips for young people about to start their own Arts Award journeys!


What is your research about, and why is it so important at the moment?

My research is about how the arts benefit secondary school aged students and the economy. I have considered various links into how the arts benefit students, one being how it can help them academically. For example, I found that there were links between studying certain types of music and the development capacity for spatial-temporal reasoning, which is vital to the achievement of important mathematics skills. Spatial-temporal reasoning refers to the ability to understand the relationship of ideas and objects in space and time.
I also found out how it can benefit students with basic skills such as thinking, social and motivational skills. An example of this is that arts help with cognitive ability, which refers to the operation of various thought processes including imagination, creativity, problem solving and expression.
Another area I found out is how studying arts subjects is comprehensive. The definition of comprehensive, taken from the Cambridge dictionary, is: complete and including everything that is necessary.
Incorporation of the arts in the school curriculum is key, as it allows students to have a well-rounded and complete education. This is because an arts rich learning can help with mental health, self-confidence, self-awareness as well as many other areas. The arts do not pretend to be a front-line health service, but it is known that they provide a complimentary role to better wellbeing. Finally, I found out how the arts can benefit the economy. For example, I found out that the arts industry is worth £76.9 billion and employs more than 1.7 million in the UK.
I believe this is a very important topic at the moment, as funding in schools is being cut which seems to be impacting the most on art based subjects. As I understand it, the government is forcing schools to place greater emphasis on academic achievement leaving very little room for other subjects. There is increased pressure on schools to follow the EBACC qualification, and the performing arts seem to be systematically removed from the curriculum. We are always having to prove the worth of the arts and justify why they should receive funding.

Did you find anything surprising in your research?

I have found it surprising that I managed to find so much information out there proving how the arts can benefit students, yet the government does not take this into account and still decides to cut the funding. There is evidence to suggest the arts can help with wellbeing, which is particularly important now with the increased mental health problems that young people seem to be suffering with. Surely if they invested in students’ wellbeing then they wouldn’t need to spend so much on treating mental health issues in the future. I feel that a more holistic approach is needed and the arts are key.

This is part of your Gold Arts Award. What’s the rest of your Arts Award project focusing on, and how are you finding it?

The Gold Arts Award is split into two units, the first focussing on developing my own arts practice and learning new skills. This has involved creating a music video, where I learnt about filming and editing from a local film production company, reviewing different arts events, completing work experience at The Gulbenkian Theatre in Canterbury and Hampstead Theatre in London, researching practitioners and exploring their career paths. The second unit is focussed on a Leadership project where you take on various roles and responsibilities as well as leading others. For this I worked on the UPrising event where I was responsible for the budget and music liaison. The Gold award is a lot of work and it has been challenging to juggle between this and my A-Levels. However, it is really rewarding and I have gained so many new skills and a real insight into the arts industry. It has helped me to develop my research skills as well as practical application of social and communication skills. It bridges the gap between working in a classroom at school and working more independently at university or in the work place. Personally, it has helped me to explore my future career path by speaking directly to industry professionals, working alongside them and finding out where I need to gain experience in order to be successful.

Have you got any advice for other young people starting their Gold Arts Awards?

It can be tempting to give up at times when you are gathering all your evidence but stick with it. If you are not organised or used to planning, then you will be by the time you finish the award. It also gives you more to talk about in interviews for university and jobs. I would recommend it to anyone who is passionate about and hopes to work in the arts.



Guest Contributor