Arts subjects help pupils' personal development, self-awareness, self-confidence and esteem, researchers are discovering.
Teachers also believe art, dance, drama and music can benefit the ethos, image and pastoral care of their schools and have a positive effect on pupils' behaviour.
The research, carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research, was commissioned by the Royal Society of Arts to gain impartial evidence on the effects and effectiveness of arts education in schools.
The three-year project focuses on five secondary schools with a reputation for good arts practice. Staff and pupils were interviewed and will be followed up over the next two years. John Harland, the project director, plans to conduct a larger survey of final-year pupils in 21 schools and interview employers and school-leavers.
The interim report found each arts subject was seen by teachers to have particular strengths and weaknesses in the range of effects it could achieve. Drama was mainly linked with a greater awareness of social and moral issues; dance was rarely associated with critical study skills. Claims for music were more modest than those made for visual art and drama.
The interim report, "The effects and effectiveness of arts education in schools", can be obtained from the Dissemination Unit, NFER, The Mere, Upton Park, Slough SL1 2DQ.