The invisible value of arts education

The invisible value of arts education

"Art helps us access and express parts of ourselves that are often unavailable to other forms of human interaction. It flies below the radar, delivering nourishment for our soul and returning with stories from the unconscious." Grayson Perry, Artist

Matthew O’Reilly, Head of St Mary's Junior School, explores the connection between the creative arts and mental health, exploring some of the 'hidden' value that creative subjects offer our young people.

For me, Grayson Perry hits the nail on the head when it comes to connecting the arts, education and mental health.1 Current research is revealing a growing understanding of the positive impact that the creative arts have on health and wellbeing.2 Perhaps this previously ‘invisible’ connection is key to supporting the wellbeing of our young people?

Unfortunately, we are living in a society in which mental health issues in young people are rising. In 2017, 1 in 12 (8.1%) of 5 to 19 year olds reported emotional disorders, such as anxiety or depression.3

Through drama, dance, music and visual art, a broad and creative education can offer unique ways to explore what it means to be human. Young children quickly connect with tasks such as: drawing ‘happiness’ or role playing ‘sadness’ and creative subjects continue to enable pupils to connect with and communicate their emotions throughout school.

From persevering with a musical instrument to managing the pressure of a big performance, creative subjects also provide experiences that build character, resilience and confidence –skills that are critical to our wellbeing.

In our Junior School, our Creative Curriculum ensures that the arts equally valued alongside say, STEM subjects. This opens up ways for every individual pupil to find a place to shine and build self-esteem. Some students will naturally excel in the science lab or on the sports field, but for those with a creative flair we offer an approach that aims to inspire the performers, innovators and creators of tomorrow.

We continue to invest in experiencing and celebrating the creative arts because we think they are vital. We want to see a future society full of creative, resilient, innovative and happy citizens … and with a strong arts education the future definitely looks much brighter!

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Picasso


  1. Creative health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing, 2017, All Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing
  2. The Case for Cultural Learning, 2017, Cultural Learning Alliance
  3. Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2017, NHS Digital

Our pastoral care

A few examples of creative arts in action in Junior School