The invisible value of arts education

September 19


"Art helps us access and express parts of ourselves that are often unavailable to other forms of human interaction. It flies below the radar, delivering nourishment for our soul and returning with stories from the unconscious." 

For me, artist Grayson Perry hits the nail on the head when it comes to connecting the arts, education and mental health.1 Perhaps this previously ‘invisible’ connection is key to supporting the well-being of our young people?

Unfortunately, we are living in a society in which mental health issues in young people are rising. In 2017, 1 in 12 (8.1%) of 5 to 19 year olds reported emotional disorders, such as anxiety or depression2

Current research is revealing a growing understanding of the positive impact that the creative arts have on health, well-being and academic attainment.3 For example, The Case for Cultural Learning has discovered that taking part in arts activities can increase children’s cognitive ability by 17%.4 

Drama, dance, music and visual art offer unique ways to explore what it means to be human. Young children quickly connect with tasks such as: drawing ‘happiness’ or role playing ‘sadness’ and creative subjects continue to enable pupils to connect with and communicate their emotions throughout school.

From persevering with a musical instrument to managing the pressure of a big performance, creative subjects also provide experiences that build character, resilience and confidence –skills that are critical to our well-being and self-esteem.

At St Mary’s School, we believe the creative arts are vital – to academic achievement, to well-being and to building a future society full of creative, innovative, resilient citizens. 

Matthew O’Reilly, Head of St Mary’s Junior School, Cambridge

  1. 1. Creative health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing, 2017, All Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing
  2. 2. Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2017, NHS Digital
  3. 3. The Case for Cultural Learning, 2017, Cultural Learning Alliance
  4. 4. Ibid.



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