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A landmark research project commissioned by Arts Council England - and involving schools and teachers who work with either the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) or Tate – outlines the overwhelmingly positive benefits of arts and cultural education on the lives of young people.  The research, undertaken by the School of Education at the University of Nottingham, has led to calls for urgent change, as thousands of young people and teachers express concern over the impact that declining arts and cultural provision in schools will have on future generations.

Time to Listen, the first and most comprehensive survey of its kind, shows what students themselves say about the value of arts and cultural education. Researchers gathered 6,000 responses from students aged 11-18 and their teachers over three years.

The findings show the ways in which arts and cultural learning in the classroom opens doors to creative activities outside school hours. More than a third of the students said school is the only opportunity they have to engage in arts activities. 

The survey was carried out against a background of funding cuts and a rapid decline in the number of arts teachers and hours spent on arts subjects in state-funded schools. There is now a growing gap in arts provision between state-maintained schools and the independent sector.

One clear and consistent message comes from the thousands of students who took part: arts and cultural learning taps into their imagination, creative instincts and self-worth in ways that other lessons do not. With no definitive right or wrong answers, arts subjects are shown to significantly help young people develop their own opinions as rounded individuals ready to contribute to their community and the wider world. The research focusses on the positive impact that arts-rich schools have on fostering independent thinking and creativity, confidence, well-being and empathy.

Talking about Time to Listen, Erica Whyman, RSC Deputy Artistic Director, said:

“The strong, consistent and thoughtful message from the young people in this study is that arts and cultural subjects are uniquely important in equipping them for both academic and employment success. 

“If we want this generation to have the key skills required to thrive in the workplace of the future, we need to listen to them now.”


Maria Balshaw, Director of Tate added:

“We cannot overstate the case for an arts and cultural education for all. Arts subjects must be at the core of education provision in the UK in our schools, be they state-funded or independent, and in our universities. We must listen to the reverberating sound of the 6,000 voices that are part of this important piece of research and act now. Otherwise, we will be failing the children and students who are the creative future of the UK.”

Researchers Professor Christine Hall and Professor Pat Thomson, School of Education, the University of Nottingham, said:

“We researched in thirty schools across England where, despite a hostile policy environment, students were engaged in a rich and exciting arts and cultural education. Students told us that their arts subjects helped them to understand themselves, their everyday lives, and the world around them.

“The evidence from our study shows the importance of schools and teachers in making sure that all young people have the opportunity to experience what the arts have to offer.  The publicly funded school system in England has some way to go to make this a reality.” 


In response to the research Anthony Seldon, Vice Chancellor, Buckingham University added:

“We all have a role to play in securing high quality access to the arts and culture for young people. This research tells us how valuable arts subjects and experiences are for students in schools - but it also tells us they are under significant threat. I call on Vice Chancellors across the country to play our part in securing the future of arts subjects in schools and universities by ensuring they are appropriately valued in our institutions. I ask Russell Group universities to review their approach to facilitating subjects and ensure we aren't inadvertently telling young people that choosing arts subjects at A Level will close down their options."

As a result of the research, and the growing body of evidence, the RSC and Tate are calling for five changes to support schools and ensure that arts and culture education features in all young people’s education:


  1. All secondary schools should be able to:

    1. ensure that at key stage 3 the arts have parity with other subjects

    2. Offer a full range of arts subjects at key stage 4 (GSCE)

    3. Confidently talk to students and their families about the value of studying arts subjects


  2. The Ofsted process should ensure the breadth and balance of the school curriculum by specifying in the inspection framework the minimum proportion of curriculum time to be spent studying arts subjects at key stage 3, and the range of arts subjects offered at key stage 4.1

  3. There should be an Arts and Culture Premium for all children in schools2.

  4. Russell Group universities should review their approach to Facilitating Subjects recognising that studying arts subjects can provide young people with an essential foundation for further study.


  5. There should be acknowledgement and appropriate reward in both pay scale and job title for the work of teachers who take on the role of ‘arts broker’.


One teacher who participated in the study said,

“The biggest value of creative work for the students is working independently and solving problems and being given responsibility, because ultimately that is what life is about…”

Students’ comments included,

“In arts subjects there’s no such thing as perfection……It’s interpretation. Everyone will have a different opinion and you have to take it on board and reflect upon it”.

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt this motivated to want to do work.”

Students and teachers highlighted the key benefits of studying arts and culture subjects including:

  • building self-belief, risk taking, and confidence

  • providing an important release valve amidst growing pressure on young people at school

  • developing empathy and tolerance; appreciating difference and diversity


To coincide with the launch of the research, Tate has released a film Why Study Art? in which a wide range of cultural figures give their views on why an arts and cultural education is vital. To view the film visit The film can also be viewed on YouTube:



For further information contact:

for the RSC 07887 837900 or, 07739 330294

for Tate Ruth Findlay 0207 887 8730 or

for University of Nottingham Charlotte Anscombe 0115 7484417


Notes to Editors


[1]  In 2017, the Cultural Learning Alliance called for Ofsted inspections to recognise and comment on the quality of arts and cultural learning in their reports, both praising great practice and flagging up where more needs to be done. They called for new guidance from Ofsted that no school, academy, youth service or children’s centre be judged outstanding unless it offers a broad and balanced curriculum that includes the arts and culture.

2 The government currently allocate £320 million a year to primary schools to fund a sports premium; this is a per head annual amount that schools must spend on sports activities. We call for the creation of an Arts and Culture premium that would similarly ring fence budget to ensure all students in primary and secondary schools are able to access arts and culture. The Cultural Learning Alliance called for an Arts and Wellbeing Premium in May 2017:


For further information on Time To Listen visit and


Schools involved in the research

Areas include: London (including Barking and Wimbledon), Stratford-upon-Avon, Canterbury, Kent, Liverpool, Bristol, Birmingham, Hull, Doncaster, Newcastle upon Tyne, Manchester, Cornwall, Hastings, Newquay

Sacred Heart School, Newcastle

Welcombe Hills Special School, Stratford-upon-Avon

The Canterbury Academy, Canterbury

Towers School, Ashford, Kent

Archbishop Tennyson’s School, London

Childwall School, Liverpool

Grey Coat Hospital School London

Digitech Studio School, Bristol

Richard Cloudsley SEN School, London

Rydens Enterprise School, London

Ark St Albans Academy, Birmingham

Uxbridge High School, Nr London

The Bridge, London

St Mary’s College, Hull

Minsthorpe School, Doncaster

Thomas Tallis School, London

Upton Hall School, Liverpool

West Derby School, Liverpool

Royal Grammar School, Newcastle upon Tyne

St Ambrose School, Manchester

St Ives School, Cornwall

Helenswood School, Hastings

Treviglas College, Newquay

Launceston College, Cornwall

King Ethelberts School, Kent

Eastbury Community School, Barking

Welling School, Nr London

Halewood School, Liverpool

Ricards Lodge School, Wimbledon

Lampton School, London

The teacher as arts and culture ‘broker’

This is a distinctive and valuable feature of what many of these teachers do.  They act as role models for their students by being committed to learning about arts and culture themselves. They share their knowledge and experiences with students, routinely talking about what they have seen and done and read, creating an ongoing classroom conversation.


About Arts Council England: Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections.



Royal Shakespeare Company: creates theatre at its best, made in Stratford-upon-Avon and shared around the world.  We produce an inspirational artistic programme each year, setting Shakespeare in context, alongside the work of his contemporaries and today’s writers.  


Everyone at the RSC - from actors to armourers, musicians to technicians - plays a part in creating the world you see on stage.  All our productions begin life at our Stratford workshops and theatres and we bring them to the widest possible audience through our touring, residencies, live broadcasts and online activity. So wherever you experience the RSC, you experience work made in Shakespeare’s home town.  


We have trained generations of the very best theatre makers and we continue to nurture the talent of the future. We encourage everyone to enjoy a lifelong relationship with Shakespeare and live theatre.  We reach 530,000 children and young people annually through our education work, transforming their experiences in the classroom, in performance and online.  Registered charity no. 212481



Tate: is a family of four galleries: Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives, attracting over seven million visitors annually through its doors and over 17 million users to its website. Tate houses the national collection of British art and from 1500 to the present and the collection of international contemporary art.

Tate’s Learning Department across all four galleries provides a rich and varied programme for adults, young people schools, families and children. In the year 2017/18 over 1.2 million young people under 18 participated in organised learning activities across the four Tate sites. Tate’s programme for schools encourages young people and teachers to try out ideas, processes and methods to contribute to a broad debate about art, education, society and culture; and to extend and develop these back in the classroom. Tate also runs Tate Exchange, a vast and ambitious project involving over 60 external Associates in a dedicated space at Tates Modern and Liverpool.


University of Nottingham: The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage, consistently ranked among the world's top 100. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our 44,000 students — Nottingham was named both Sports and International University of the Year in the 2019 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, was awarded gold in the TEF 2017 and features in the top 20 of all three major UK rankings. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia — part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner — locally and globally.

About the researchers: Christine Hall and Pat Thomson are Professors of Education in the School of Education, at The University or Nottingham. They have worked together for the last fifteen years researching the arts and creativity in schools and communities.

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