11/06/2012 20:00 BST

TV Historian Simon Schama: Shakespeare Should Be Taught In Schools

TV historian Simon Schama has hit out at suggestions that Shakespeare should not be taught in schools.

The place of the Bard on the national curriculum has been debated in recent years, but Schama criticised those who claim the playwright is not accessible enough.

"I think it's incredibly patronising of anybody to suppose that is true of Shakespeare," he told the Radio Times.

Schama, who recently appeared on the judging panel of a TV show which saw schoolchildren compete to make a Shakespearean speech, said: "We were listening to children - all from state schools - who learned long speeches by Shakespeare.

"They weren't all white, they weren't all pink or beige - they were exactly the face of young Britain that you'd expect and had absolutely no problem with the language or meaning of the plays. They were utterly wonderful."

The historian added: "Shakespeare isn't scary. It shouldn't be scary. And to suggest that schools, for example, shouldn't teach him or should teach him less because he's not 'accessible' is robbing children of an incredible experience with their own language and an understanding of what it means to be human."

Schama, who is presenting a two-part BBC2 documentary on the Bard, added: "No playwright before or since has got under the skin of the nation like Shakespeare."