The British government announced their plans for a new school league table which excludes creative subjects on third of November. Nicky Morgan, the British Education Secretary, said schoolchildren who focus exclusively on arts and humanities-style subjects risk restricting their future career path. The Union of Students in Ireland said Ireland must not follow in Britain’s footsteps because art education enables social mobility, is a creative outlet and expression, and schoolchildren exposed to drama, music and dance are often more proficient at reading, writing and maths.

“The British government may think the arts is a frivolous part of the educational system,” Kevin Donoghue, President of the Union of Students in Ireland, said, “But our research shows that not only do the arts give children interpersonal, social, self-directing, interpreting, communication and creative skills, but it also improves their reading, writing and maths. The British government has made one bad education decision after another and Ireland must not follow Britain in this creative exclusion because it will stunt academic growth and learning.

“Musicians have some increased cognitive abilities. There are patterns in the greatest music compositions, like the scores from Johann Sebastian Bach, which are made up of rhythmic fractions.” Donoghue said “Learning the difference between 2/4, 3/4 and 4/4compositions is similar to predicting a mathematical equation. Music has the ability to make you feel something that language sometimes cannot translate. Music has no linguistic barriers. It is universally interpreted and felt. Drama and performing arts help children develop oratory, communication and interpretation skills, as well as empathy, because it allows the actor to experience how another character thinks and acts. Painting and sketching is a way for children to convey ideas, express emotion, use their senses, explore process and outcomes, and create aesthetically rich works and experiences.”

In 2002, a report by the Arts Education Partnership revealed that schoolchildren exposed to drama, music and dance are often more proficient at reading, writing and maths. The data also showed that students who received more arts education did better on standardized tests, had better social skills and were more motivated than those who had reduced or no access to arts education. The 2006 Soloman R. Guggenheim Museum study on art education also showed a link between arts education and improved literacy skills.

“If you play a musical instrument, your brain shows changes, mainly in the motor and auditory cortices,” said Nadine Gaab, the principal investigator at the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Auditory, because you’re using your ears a lot and then motor because you’re doing a lot of practice with your fingers and arms, requiring unique movements.”

The Union of Students in Ireland said students from lower income families often get little exposure to the arts if they are not provided by schools. The report by the Rand Corporation called ‘A Portrait of the Visual Arts’ shows that art education improves social mobility by helping to close the gap between socioeconomic groups, creating a more level playing field between children who may not be exposed to these enrichment experiences outside of school and some of their more privileged peers.