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Within the context of policy

In 2015, the UK Government formed an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Arts and Health which published an inquiry into arts and health in 2017. In the section on children and young people, the report states that ‘engagement with the arts can aid physical, cognitive, linguistic, social and emotional development.’ (page 87).

The APPG enquiry (2017) includes an example of a music theatre project in Srebrenica with young people fleeing war and persecution. This was deemed a therapeutic success and was expanded by the award-winning charity Music Action International to other areas such as Kosovo, Chechnya, Palestine and East Africa. The enquiry provides an overview of arts projects which have demonstrated positive impacts on the lives and development of children and young people at all ages, including educational and social development.

‘We urge DH and DfE to recognise the arts as a form of evidence-based and cost-effective treatment of childhood behavioural problems and conduct disorders and make provision accordingly. In light of this evidence, NICE might revise its guidance on social and emotional wellbeing in the early years.’ (APPG, 2017 p.91).

The 2016 Culture White Paper acknowledged that ‘being taught to play a musical instrument, to draw, paint and make things, to dance and to act’ is an important part of every child’s education and pledged that DCMS would ‘put in place measures to increase participation in culture, especially among those who are currently excluded from the opportunities that culture has to offer. In particular, we will ensure that children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are inspired by and have new meaningful relationships with culture’. (The Culture White Paper, 2016).

When inspecting schools, OFSTED considers the ‘spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of the pupils’ (p.8). Artsmark is an Arts Council England initiative which aims to support schools to be able to evaluate, strengthen and celebrate their arts and cultural provision.

Health also enters into the OFSTED school inspection framework, particularly the requirement that ‘learners understand how to keep themselves safe and healthy, both physically and emotionally’ (p.64).

The APPG recommended in the 2016 report that ‘DfE and OFSTED could usefully encourage all schools to recognise the role of the arts in the cultural development, mental health and wellbeing of pupils and to adopt the Artsmark application.’ (APPG, 2017 p.91)

The young people that are attending music sessions at the moment, I know are benefiting massively from it.

Lizzy Watkiss, Occupational Therapist

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