Catch up and play

Catch up and play

Picture of Nicola King

BY: Nicola King
04 May 2021

As children have now returned to the classroom, there is a lot of discussion around what should be the focus of education in the coming months. The government have made ‘catch up’ a clear priority announcing an education Recovery Package which includes an expansion of the National Tutoring Programme and summer schools provision. Others in the education community have, however, cautioned against the focus on catching up, instead calling for a ‘summer of play’ stressing the importance of children’s mental health and wellbeing. As Professor of Child Psychology Helen Dodd explained; ‘as part of the recovery process, children need time to reconnect and play with their friends, they need to be reminded how good it feels to be outdoors after so long inside and they need to get physically active again’.

However, as most educators know, these two ideas are not mutually exclusive, in fact, there are a wealth of articles and books examining the benefits of learning through play. Through play, children can develop communication skills, problem solving and conflict management, understanding for others, self- esteem, and emotional resilience; all skills vital to both their emotional and academic recovery, as well as being important skills for life!

The arts can and should play an important part in this ‘summer of play’, and the education recovery tsar Sir Kevan Collins has already stated that sport, music and drama should be a part of the catch- up agenda for pupils in England. A 2019 report into the importance of arts education in primary schools by the Fabian Society found that ‘participation in the arts can increase children’s academic performance, with improved attainment in literacy, maths, and language acquisition’ and that ‘integrating arts into other lessons reduces children’s boredom with the subject and increases interest in independent learning, even when pupils have previously described themselves as discouraged by learning’.

The arts are also a powerful tool for tackling disadvantage, which is particularly important presently as research indicates that the loss of learning due to lockdown is more likely to impact children from disadvantaged groups. The Fabian society’s report states that ‘arts education can close educational inequalities, preventing childhood disadvantage from becoming lifelong disadvantage’ and music programmes, for example, ‘may have value in helping to counteract the negative effects of low-socioeconomic status on child literacy development’.

The Arts Award Impact Study found that Arts Award had a positive impact on young people’s education and career trajectories and made aspirations for further study or careers in the arts more feasible. The higher levels of Arts Award were particularly impactful for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, who had less access to regular and diverse extra-curricular activities.

There are many cross curricular benefits to arts activities that can be done both in school and at home, for example;

  • Singing songs can develop children’s vocabulary
  • Art activities that involve using shapes or patterns can improve maths skills
  • Learning a dance can improve memory and concentration
  • Drama can improve communication skills
  • Skills developed through arts and crafts can be applied to, and embedded into, ICT

A summer that allowed young people to play, create and explore would not then be more learning time lost but instead could be filled with rich learning and development.

Arts Award can provide a structure for your arts activities alongside a clear way to measure impact and development. Whatever your plans are for your students going forward, Arts Award is here to support them. For more information about how Arts Award can be adapted to support your plans take a look at our Arts Award and the Recovery Package information page, or watch back our webinar.

Remember you could share your young persons wonderful Arts Award work as part of the Festival of School and College Art.

Use our activity mapping documents to plan your project
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