LAMDA commissions research into drama education in schools

LAMDA recently commissioned a poll looking into drama education in schools.

We were interested to find out how many young people have access to drama in their schools, whether through taking part in school plays or going to see productions. Children were also questioned about their knowledge of playwrights, ranging from William Shakespeare to Caryl Churchill to Roy Williams.

The startling research revealed that one in three UK school children aged 11-18 can’t pick out William Shakespeare as a playwright. When given a list of 13 names, including Simon Cowell, Alesha Dixon and Neville Chamberlain, 31 per cent of school kids weren’t able to identify the Bard as a writer of plays. This figure is starker for grammar school students, 50 per cent of which didn’t recognise Stratford-upon-Avon’s most famous son.

A lack of student engagement with the arts has also been laid bare by the stats. Nearly half (47 per cent) of state school children have never been to see a play as part of a school trip, while two thirds (65 per cent) have never taken part in a school play. These figures fall to 29 per cent and 51 per cent respectively for private schools.

Joanna Read, Principal of LAMDA, criticised the government for its lack of investment in drama within state education: “These statistics are shocking. 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.”

Ms Read continued: “This research demonstrates the appalling erosion that a lack of funding is having on children’s access to arts activity and participation. If the opportunities aren’t offered at an early age, how will young people develop a rewarding relationship with the arts, much less consider it as a possible career? 

The arts and culture industries contribute over £20 billion to the UK’s economy, so this lack of funding is incredibly short sighted and will only serve to make drama and the arts less diverse. The Government needs to feed the pipeline for the creative industries. The current situation risks the well of talent running dry.”

Shakespeare isn’t the only playwright that school children struggled to identify. Caryl Churchill and Roy Williams OBE, arguably Britain’s most celebrated female and black playwrights, were picked out by 4 per cent and 2 per cent of students respectively, the same number that chose Amanda Holden (4 per cent) and Simon Cowell (2 per cent).

Published Friday 19 October 2018