University of Limerick led study finds arts and PE help pupils thrive at school

The study by researchers at UL shows that physical education and the arts has an effect on how children enjoy school

The study by researchers at UL shows that physical education and the arts has an effect on how children enjoy school

A STUDY led by researchers at the University of Limerick has revealed that children who enjoy physical education and the arts take part in school life more fully than those who do not.

The research study led by UL’s Dr. Enrique Garcia Bengoechea, Department of Physical Education and Sport Science with researchers from the University of Edinburgh and McGill University in Canada, assessed a group of more than 1700 early or middle adolescent pupils and identified participation in physical education and activities such as music, drama and visual arts as the greatest predictors of engagement among children aged 12 to 15.

The study also found that for 12 and 13 year olds, enjoyment of physical education was the greatest contributor to feeling connected to school.

Dr Garcia Bengoechea said: “Curricular factors, and in particular the quality of students’ experiences in physical education and arts education, may be more important than previously recognised in terms of understanding and promoting student engagement.”

The study assessed pupils’ experience in a range of subjects by asking them to rate how much they enjoyed the subjects. They also analysed data to gauge how parents, teachers and peers influenced the pupils’ engagement with school.  

They used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth – a long-term study of Canadian children that follows development and wellbeing from birth. 

Those taking part were asked to rate their enjoyment of arts education, language arts, mathematics, physical education and science by choosing from four statements measuring their attitudes.  

Statistical methods were used to examine the link between enjoyment of subjects with school engagement.

The researchers accounted for factors such as gender, parental encouragement, the influence of peers and the perceptions of teachers, and academic performance.

They also assessed participation in a variety of extracurricular activities in and outside the school.

Dr Shirley Gray of the University of Edinburgh’s Moray House School of Education, said: “These findings suggest that greater investment in physical education and arts education has the potential to improve school engagement, academic attainment and health and wellbeing.”