Finding 2: Attainment

Learning through arts and culture can improve attainment in Maths & English

Evidence points to gains in attainment in a range of subjects as a result of studying the arts. A 2015 literature review commissioned by CASE found The evidence points to a positive relationship between arts and educational impacts (Taylor et al, 2015: p.88).

One-third of young people in the youth justice system who completed the Summer Arts Colleges moved up a level in literacy and numeracy (Stephenson et al, 2014: p.83).

Young people using libraries read above the expected level for their age; young people who don’t use libraries read below the expected level (Clark and Hawkin, 2010).

In the US, large cohort studies of 25,000 students undertaken 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 (Catterall, 2009, 2012).

‘Teenagers and young adults of low socio-economic status (SES) who have a history of in-depth arts involvement show better academic outcomes than do low-SES youth who have less arts involvement. They earn better grades and demonstrate higher rates of college enrolment and attainment.’ (Catterall, 2012: p.12)

Other studies echo these results, with Ruppert nding that students who take arts classes have higher maths and verbal SAT scores than students who take no arts classes (2006: p.9). Canadian research reported increases in maths ability after three years of arts education compared to control schools (Smithrim & Upitis, 2005) and in Australia they have shown children who take part in arts activities in the home during their early years are ahead in reading and maths at age nine (see Key Research Finding 9).


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

Catterall, James S., Dumais, Susan A. and Hampden-Thompson, Gillian. The arts and achievements in at-risk youth: findings from four longitudinal studies (Washington: National Endowment for the Arts, 2012)

Clark, Christina and Hawkin, Lucy. Public Libraries and Literacy (London: National Literacy Trust, 2010) 

Ruppert, Sandra S. How the Arts Benefit Student Achievement (National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, 2006)

Smithrim, K. and Upitis, R. ‘Learning through the arts: lessons of engagement’ Canadian Journal of Education 2005, 28(12) pp.109–127  

Stephenson, Martin, Adams, Maree and Tarling, Roger. The Art of Engagement: Outcomes and Impact of the Summer Arts College Programme 2007–12 (Norwich: Unitas, 2014) 

Taylor, Peter, Davies, Larissa, Wells, Peter, Gilbertson, Jan and Tayleur, William. A review of the Social Impacts of Culture and Sport (London: CASE, 2015)