Pupils who have worked with creative people such as writers and fashion designers are more punctual, better behaved and work better, Ofsted says.
Creativity in all media is being encouraged
The education inspectorate has evaluated the Creative Partnerships scheme that has now been running in 2,500 schools in England.
It said pupils developed skills such as improvisation, risk-taking, resilience and collaboration.
The challenge now was to get them to apply these skills independently.
Ministers said they were pleased at the findings.
Creative Partnerships were set up by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Ofsted recommends that it and the Department for Education and Skills should work together to give more pupils the opportunity to work with a creative practitioner.
In a large secondary school with business and enterprise specialist status, different groups of pupils worked in the creative industries
One group worked with a media company to create a CD about Ice and Fire as a geography teaching resource, following a visit to Iceland
The practitioners involved so far included, for example, writers, environmental designers, entrepreneurs, artists and performers.
"Often the outcomes of programmes could be seen in changed attitudes and behaviours, and the demonstration of creative approaches to work," Ofsted said.
It called the outcome "a significant achievement".
"Programmes were less effective than they might have been because of uncertainty about pupils' starting points and because activity that was insufficiently demanding of pupils' creativity went unchallenged.
"Nevertheless, a basis for further creative development had been established, and in several schools this stimulated improvement in pupils' key skills."
The inspectors said teachers reported that children who took part in the scheme produced better work in English, maths and information technology.
More of them turned up to class on time and behaved themselves.
Ofsted's education director, Miriam Rosen, said pupils on the scheme - some of whom had been given a "fresh start" in their schooling - had developed "some of the skills which often define creative people".
"The challenge now is to ensure pupils develop the confidence and initiative to develop and apply these skills so that they work and think more creatively beyond the programmes," she said.