EEF to test impact of school theatre trips under £2.5m trial

The educational impact of taking pupils to the theatre and visiting exhibitions will be tested under a new £2.5 million trial.

The project will be focus on schools in deprived areas where cultural participation is low, and will be run under a partnership between the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), supported by Arts Council England.

The EEF said there is currently limited high-quality research into the impact different arts approaches have on pupil outcomes, and the new trial would be used to deliver and evaluate the various learning activities on academic attainment, as well as skills and behaviours like resilience, self-confidence and creativity.

The trial, which is expected to be run in 200 schools, will cover a range of cultural learning experiences including visiting venues, seeing theatre performances and exhibitions as well as learning through practical activity.

Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the EEF, said the results from this work will help to put “schools, government and arts organisations in a much better position to decide between the relative merits of different cultural learning approaches”.

Kevan Collins

He added that with schools “increasingly accountable” for the impact of all of their spending decisions on pupil attainment, there is an “urgent need” for more and better evidence on the relative benefits of different approaches and strategies.

There have been fears across the schools community that the government is pushing schools away from arts education with the introduction of the EBacc – a performance measure for ranking schools whose pupils secure a grade C or above across five “core” academic subjects: English, mathematics, history or geography, the sciences and a language.

This year’s GCSE results saw an eight per cent decline in creative arts and technical subjects and a 1.7 per cent decline in the number of pupils taking at least one arts-based GCSE.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA, said the current decline in provision of arts education in schools is “deeply concerning”, but added that a stronger evidence base for their impact are “crucial to sustaining their presence and to improving practice”.

“Schools derive a wide range of benefits from engagement in cultural learning activities and these randomised control trials are part of a wider programme of research to develop a broader understanding of how schools can benefit most,” Taylor said.

The research will be welcomed news by the Labour party after leader Jeremy Corbyn announced in September that he would introduce an “arts pupil premium” to pump £160 million of extra funding into schools if his party wins the next general election.

Corbyn said the cash boost would help pupils learn to play instruments, learn drama and dance and have “regular access” to theatres, galleries or museums in their local areas.

Applications for the EEF funding is open to arts and cultural organisations, schools, universities and other non-profit organisations. The initial call for projects closes February 15.

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  1. What have we come to?
    You can only have fun in our schools today if it increases GCSE results by a statistically significant amount and someone has done a research project to prove it.

    This on the same day that the government is telling us of the problems of child mental health not being addressed.

    How about research into “does breathing increase your exam score?” Let’s spend £5 million on research to find out and then make sure OFSTED checks that all schools are keeping a breathing register which teachers have to complete every lesson. Every lesson will begin with “Breathing Objectives” which children will write in their exercise books and teachers will mark in 3 different pen colours. If children are not breathing fast enough schools will be put into Special Measures. Super Academy headteachers will tell the world on Twitter that their school has become fandabbydosy ever since they ensured all children were breathing in every lesson.
    Does anyone else feel the need to scream?

  2. P. Lovatt

    To suggest that there is an ‘urgent need’ for £2.5 million worth of trials is absolutely shocking when funding in education is being cut in so many areas.

    Why don’t we be a bit radical and just give the £2.5 million directly to inner city schools across the country to fund trips that will broaden students’ cultural horizons. Why? Because we wouldn’t dare – this approach would simply deprive a number of educational fat cats of a very healthy pay packet, thank you very much!