Third of pupils don't know Shakespeare wrote plays

Almost half of secondary pupils have not been to the theatre with school, survey finds

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Almost a third of children do not realise William Shakespeare was a playwright, according to new research.

The survey released by the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) revealed that when children were given a list of 13 names – including Simon Cowell, Alesha Dixon and Neville Chamberlain – and asked which they thought were playwrights, just 70 per cent correctly identified Shakespeare.

Grammar school pupils were less likely to pick out Shakespeare with 50 per cent (out of 137 grammar school respondents) picking out the playwright, compared to 75 per cent of non-selective school pupils (out of 808 respondents).

The representative survey of 1,000 11- to 18-year-olds, conducted by the company OnePoll, also found that 47 per cent of state school children had never been to see a play as part of a school trip, and two-thirds had never taken part in a school play.

But in independent schools, just 29 per cent of students said they had never been to the theatre with school and 51 per cent had not been in a school play.

“These statistics are shocking,” Joanna Read, principal of LAMDA said. “I’m concerned that half of our children have never been to see a play with their school – that figure should be zero. The arts are a right, not a privilege, and today we are seeing fewer and fewer children being given the opportunity to access, enjoy and learn from them.”

The survey also found that Caryl Churchill, writer of Top Girls, and Roy Williams, who won a BAFTA for Offside, were picked out by 4 per cent and 2 per cent of students respectively, the same number thought actress Amanda Holden (4 per cent) and music producer Simon Cowell (2 per cent) were playwrights.

The poll comes after a report earlier this week from the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Tate, which said that school was the only place that more than a third of pupils engaged in the arts and called for Ofsted to specify a minimum teaching time for arts subjects.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Shakespeare is an important part of our cultural heritage, and we expect all pupils to study a broad and balanced curriculum.

"The national curriculum requires the study of at least two Shakespeare plays, and everyone taking a GCSE in English literature must also study a Shakespeare play.”

“Between 2016 and 2020, we are investing almost half a billion pounds in arts and music programmes – more than any other subject apart from PE and sport.”

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