In a poll of 1,000 children aged 11 to 18, researchers for LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) found that 31% were not familiar with the work of the bard.
The pupils were given a list of 13 names, including Simon Cowell, Alesha Dixon and Neville Chamberlain, and asked to identify the playwrights.
Image: Some 2% of pupils picked Simon Cowell out as a playwright
Grammar school students fared the worst, with 50% failing to recognise Stratford-upon-Avon‘s most famous son.
The poll also found that nearly half the children (47%) had never been to see a play as part of a school trip and almost two thirds (65%) had never been involved in a school play.
LAMDA says the statistics lay bare the “startling lack of student engagement with the arts”.
Principal Joanna Read said: “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.”
Shakespeare was not the only playwright school children struggled to identify.
Caryl Churchill and Roy Williams, arguably Britain‘s most celebrated female and black playwrights, were picked out by 4% and 2% of students respectively – the same number that chose Amanda Holden (4%) and Simon Cowell (2%).