Open letter: Museums have huge benefits for children beyond passing exams 4 Apr 2022

A study due to appear in the British Journal of Sociology of Education says that family visits to theatre or a museum do not affect exam grades, although reading activities by parents and children do have a connection. The research is part of work to see how cultural capital affects the life chances of children. The authors said that their findings “do not lend any support to the view that increasing cultural capital will reduce the size of social class inequalities in school GCSE outcomes.” However, in a letter to the Guardian, leaders of MA, AIM, Art Fund and NMDC disputed the implication that the only benefit to children in museum visits is in helping them to pass exams. Pointing to the crucial role of museums during the pandemic in giving ‘engaging experiences of culture, art, science and history’ which contribute to ‘wider development and understanding of the world’, the letter adds: “there are numerous other recent studies that demonstrate the broader development and wellbeing benefits that museum visits can bring. Museums are brilliant places for discovering who we are, where we have come from and what we might become. There is no exam for that.” Previous studies have correlated museum visits with both health and happiness: GEM has blogged on these wider findings, and its Case Studies #29 out later in the Spring will give examples of museums that have worked with schools to improve pupil enjoyment and outcomes. As we reported in March, the Government is also exploring a broader history curriculum in schools, that goes beyond ‘the Tudors and the Second World War’ to make it more interesting to pupils. Museums Journal (twitter), Guardian (letter, second down), Guardian, Happy Museum (Fujiwara), UCL (museums and longevity), GEM, NMDC (broadening history curriculum), Museums Journal