Tuesday 6 December 2016

Children who participate in artistic and cultural activities cope much better with school - report

Katherine Donnelly, Education Editor

Published 05/10/2016 | 12:11

The report was compiled by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI)
The report was compiled by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI)

Children in Ireland who participate in artistic and cultural activities are happier and cope much better with school, according to a landmark study.

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It exposes a big social and gender gaps,  with children from better-off backgrounds, particularly girls,  more likely to be engaged in  pursuits ranging from reading to drama classes.

The findings emerge in data about 3-5 years olds and 9-13 year olds gathered  in the Government-funded Growing Up in Ireland study, which has been tracking the progress of almost 20,000 children for almost a decade.

The report, the first of its kind,  was compiled by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) on behalf of the Arts Council.

Among the findings is that nine-year-olds who frequently read and attend classes in music, dance or drama are more confident about coping  with schoolwork by age 13.

As 13-year-olds, they are also happier, have reduced anxiety, better academic skills and fewer socio-emotional difficulties.

The social divide shows up early, with three-year-olds, whose mothers have a third-level education, 50pc more likely to  have books read to them, than those whose mothers left school early. 

Five year olds from more advantaged families are more involved in many activities, including reading, painting/drawing and educational visits, and spend less time watching television or playing with electronic devices.

Socio-economic background generally is a big factor in participation rates in the arts,  with the cost of  after-school classes such as in dance, art, music or drama, identified as a barrier  for low-income families.

The study also  found that  children from migrant families and children with special educational needs were less likely to engage in structured cultural activities.

There are striking gender differences in levels of participation in the arts from as young an age as three, which persist throughout childhood, with girls’ schools offering more arts activities, and more girls participating after school.

Girls are more likely to read than boys, regardless of their socio-economic background.  In addition, girls as young as five   paint, draw, enjoy music or dance more than their male peers.

The study also took account of children’s engagement in popular culture, including television viewing and digital engagement, as well as involvement in music, dance and drama lessons and in reading for pleasure.

It found that while watching a lot of television promotes verbal skills, it does to at the expense of greater socio-emotional difficulties..

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