The creative industries have moved into first place as the fastest growing economic sector in the UK, responsible for 7.6% of jobs, and worth over £80bn to the UK economy.

A recent statement by Examining Body OCR confirms that:

“Arts in school are a crucial ingredient in the making of UK’s creative life – one of the nation’s USPs. But artists, musicians, writers and actors are not born skilled. Huge numbers of creative professionals can trace the igniting of their creativity back to experiences at school, whether it was encouragement from a school art teacher, acting in a play or singing a particular piece of music at school. Lily Allen, Grayson Perry and Evelyn Glennie all talk with passion of the influence a particular teacher had in inspiring them to develop their creativity and follow a creative career.”

Here at Children & the Arts, a recent survey of teachers involved in our Start Programme revealed that 97% of them felt their pupils had become increasingly confident and creative in their own right through engagement in the arts-based structure of the programme. A key strength of Start is that it’s not just about ‘extra-curricular’ experiences – it empowers teachers to incorporate creative inspiration directly into all areas of the curriculum, whether that’s history, science and geography or art, drama and music.

In support of their argument for increased emphasis on arts in school, OCR have identified five main reasons to study creative subjects:

1. The arts make self-starters and develop emotional intelligence

All arts subjects require the student to set their own agenda from within themselves, rather than follow set topics as in other curriculum areas. They have to make independent decisions all the way, and be self-critical. They also need to be brave in exposing their creations, and accept criticism. Working in teams makes students into good communicators.

2. The arts are stretching

Music, art and drama require long hours of hard work and dedication. Students have to pay great attention to detail, to perfect and redo. Putting on a play, exhibition or concert takes strong organisational skills.

3. Arts students are highly sought-after by employers

Many employers now actively seek those who have studied the arts. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, was fond of saying his success was due to his hiring artists and musicians fascinated by technology rather than computer geeks. Top talent management agency The Curve Group specialising in financial and business services, concurs: “Employees with an arts degree have developed more quickly in their roles from the start. They have discipline, confidence and can accept criticism.”

4. Arts ‘reach the parts other subjects can’t reach’

The arts develop the broader dimensions of the human being – mind, body and soul. The arts can express the inexpressible and make sense of things that otherwise do not seem to. This can be very fulfilling and helps us function as human beings – which can only be good for society as a whole.

5. Arts ‘reach the students other subjects can’t reach’

Teachers find arts subjects particularly beneficial for two groups: those who struggle with traditional subjects and those who are high achieving. Less academic students can become defeatist if they feel they can’t achieve: drama, music or art can be the place they blossom. With studious students, the arts can bring them out of themselves and be a release.

It’s the first and last of these five arguments which we see most frequent evidence of in our work at Children & the Arts. Building resilience and emotional intelligence among our children and young people is more vital today than it has ever been. The stresses and challenges they face can be hugely daunting, but time and again we see how the arts can provide them with a whole new toolkit for developing and expressing their own ideas, feelings and aspirations.

And the power of this is most evident among disadvantaged children with little alternative opportunity to gain these types of experience. With research revealing that pupils from poorer backgrounds who are engaged in structured arts activity are three times more likely to achieve a degree, the UK simply cannot afford the widespread waste of potential which would flow from further dilution of the arts in school.

Learn more about our schools projects