Finding 1: Cognitive abilities

Participation in structured arts activities can increase cognitive abilities by 17%

Across a range of high-quality evidence, the Culture and Sport Evidence (CASE) review found that taking part in structured arts activities could increase children’s cognitive ability test scores by between 16% and 19% (CASE, 2010: p.29). The CAT (Cognitive Ability Test) is widely used in UK schools as an indicator of ability. Improving children’s cognitive skills makes them better learners, more able to apply the knowledge they acquire.

Structured arts activities offer a way to improve children’s thinking skills and thus improve their performance across the board at school, with knock-on effects of better life chances as adults. Using data from the British Cohort Study, we know that an increase of one standard deviation in cognitive ability at age 11 is associated with a 20.2 percentage point rise in the likelihood of staying on at school post-16 and with approximately a 10% increase in hourly wages (Carneiro et al, 2006: pp.1,14) at the age of 42. 


Carneiro, Pedro, Crawford, Claire and Goodman, Alissa. Which Skills Matter (London, Centre for the Economics of Education, 2006) Available at: 

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