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Exposure to a quality arts programme in early life is linked to better pupil outcomes not just in creativity but also in areas such as academic attainment, social skills, and the overcoming of early-life disadvantages. Yet squeezed school budgets and heightened testing-driven emphasis on pupil achievement in core subjects have led to underinvestment in arts education, with the delivery of an arts-rich curriculum deprioritised in many primary schools. It is against this backdrop that Artis Foundation helps primary schools fill the gap in arts provision by providing primary school pupils with a weekly curriculum-linked programme.

We have assessed the long-term economic impacts of the Artis 36-week programme by linking data on socio-emotional outcomes to evidence on long-term benefits. We find that:

  • The children who demonstrated elevated levels of initial difficulties saw a clear improvement in their socio-emotional outcomes between the beginning and end of the Artis programme, even after accounting for possible natural improvements over time.
  • If these improvements in outcomes do not fade out over time, then we estimate the long-term economic benefit per child is around £2,300 from improvements in truancy, exclusion, crime, smoking, adult mental health and earnings over their lifetime.
  • Artis estimates that it spends £72 to put a child through one academic year of its weekly sessions. This suggests that for every £1 invested in Artis’ programme, there could be as much as a £32 return in long-term economic benefits.
  • Our sensitivity analysis suggests that more than 97% of these benefits would need to fade out over time before the benefits of the Artis programme are outweighed by its costs.
  • We estimate that if the Artis programme were rolled out across all primary schools in the top 20% of most deprived areas in England, there would be a potential lifetime benefit of up to £3.3 billion for all children in any one academic year.

Overall, our analysis suggests that there are likely to be substantial long-term benefits from the Artis programme. It is particularly pertinent that our study was carried out in the backdrop of Covid-19.  Over this period anxiety was reported to be heightened amongst many children who saw their school and social lives disrupted as many classes were moved online, including a number of Artis sessions. These factors may have reduced some of the full positive impact that we would have expected from Artis in-person sessions but demonstrates that the programme can still deliver improvements in socio-emotional outcomes even during the most challenging of times.

To estimate the long-term economic benefits of a programme targeted at primary school children we need to make a number of important assumptions. Whilst our sensitivity analysis highlights that varying these assumptions is not likely to change the core conclusion that the Artis programme is likely to deliver long-term economic benefits, it does create some uncertainty about the exact range. Artis should consider how they can further develop the evidence for their impact by:

  • Gathering more follow-up data on pupils they work with so that they can see if the improvements in socio-emotional outcomes are maintained over time.

  • Explore the feasibility of gathering data from a group of children that do not receive the intervention. This would enable them to compare the outcomes of their beneficiaries against a control group, providing stronger evidence that the Artis programme is what has driven the improvement in socio-emotional outcomes seen.

Despite these limitations, our study adds to wider evidence demonstrating a positive relationship between high-quality arts education and a wide range of children’s outcomes such as: cognitive skills, creativity, IQ, self-esteem, reading, language, writing, subject learning outcomes, child behaviour, aesthetic appreciation, truancy and income in later life.
This range of benefits linked to programmes such as the one offered by Artis suggests that the arts should be seen as an essential part of the curriculum and not a competitor for space in the school day. Finding ways to integrate arts throughout children’s education to support, embed and enrich learning from other parts of the curriculum could prove to be a powerful tool to support our children to thrive and succeed.

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