Why arts learning is important for student wellbeing
“When we mention the word wellbeing we think about the arts; when we mention the word community we think about the arts. When we mention togetherness, identity, culture, our heritage, we think about the arts. And I crave the day when we stop explaining ourselves and people just know it.”
– Jacinda Arden, 2017
In 2021, the National Mental Health Commission developed the first National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy due to increasing rates of poor mental health in Australia. It found half of all adult mental health challenges in Australia emerge before the age of 14.
Of the most common reasons to visit a paediatrician, 7 out of 10 are for mental health. The strategy states that anxiety, depressive disorders and conduct disorders account for 3 of the 5 leading causes of disease burden for children aged 5 – 14 years.
The number could be greater with more than 50% of children who experience mental health challenges in Australia not receiving any professional help. These findings are alarming especially when we consider the Strategy was compiled using pre-pandemic data. COVID-19 has made the situation worse.
Evidence suggests that mental health problems increases during and after emergencies and that this can have negative impacts on student learning, behaviour and wellbeing.1
Schools have a critical role to play in providing safe, inclusive, caring and positive spaces for students and their families to reconnect after emergency situations.
“Education needs to pay closer attention to students’ social and emotional well-being alongside cognitive development, and to equity in learning opportunities as well.”2
– Andreas Schleicher from OECD Education Directorate
The role of the arts in supporting wellbeing has been understood throughout history and across cultures, resulting in the emergence of an interdisciplinary field of ‘arts for health and wellbeing’ in the last 60 years.3 There is growing evidence that active participation in the arts can enhance social connectedness, confidence, self-esteem, mood, concentration, emotional development and mental health and wellbeing.4
The Song Room’s programs draws on extensive research to provide schools with significant opportunities to advance both student social emotional learning and community wellbeing through the arts. The impact of The Song Room’s long-term programs showed that through participation in sequential arts learning students experienced improved social-emotional wellbeing outcomes, reduced depression and anxiety, enhanced self-esteem, and improved school engagement.
We work in partnership with schools across Australia to create sustainable outcomes for children to flourish through rich arts experiences.
- Cahill, H., Dadvand, B., Shlezinger, K., Romei, K., Farrelly, A., & Ricerche. (2020). Strategies for supporting student and teacher wellbeing post-emergency. 12. 23-38. 10.32076/RA12108. p. 32. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/344574888_Strategies_for_supporting_student_and_teacher_wellbeing_post-emergency
- Schleicher, A. (2021), Learning from the Past, Looking to the Future: Excellence and Equity for all, International Summit on the Teaching Profession, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/f43c1728-en, p. 8.
- O’Connor, P. (2020), Replanting Creativity During Post-normal Times, retrieved from: https://www.teritotoi.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Replanting-Creativity-during-post-normal-times_FINAL-2021.pdf
- Vaughan, T., Caldwell, B., (2011), Bridging the Gap in School Achievement through the Arts, Educational Transformations. https://www.songroom.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Bridging-the-Gap-in-School-Achievement-through-the-Arts.pdf