Wednesday 26 November 2008

Bypassing the Bard

The demise of Shakespeare in schools, evidenced by a fall off in demand at the RSC, is an entirely predictable outcome of the Government's decision to scrap Key Stage 3 tests. In many schools, the only reason the Bard was taught to less able pupils under 14 was because of its place on the curriculum and in the tests. Teachers believe they are exercising their professional judgment that a significant proportion of pupils find Shakespeare too difficult. For years, the curriculum authority had been trying to ditch this test but were resisted by successive secretaries of state.

But it was to ensure that everyone was exposed to England's greatest playwright that the National Curriculum gave his works such prominence. Those who demanded the demise of the tests - including the Schools Select Committee - should have understood this. The question we need to decide is whether every pupil should have an entitlement to certain subjects and experiences. By scrapping the Shakespeare test along with other KS3 tests, the decision was also effectively made to downgrade Shakespeare in schools. The only surprise is that the architects of this decision should be so surprised.

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