Monday, September 18, 2006

'Boring' lessons putting pupils off Bard

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) demanded an overhaul of the way the Bard is taught in schools today, warning that children were being put off for life by "boring" lessons.

The famous actors' company said too many children were denied the chance to see Shakespeare's plays performed live and were limited to studying "a script on a page". The RSC's director of learning Maria Evans said children should perform scenes themselves in class and undergo some kind of "practical" assessment during exams.

All pupils should have the chance to see at least one Shakespeare play performed in full during their time at school, she said. Writing in the Times Educational Supplement, Ms Evans said: "Stop your average young person in the street, ask them what they think about Shakespeare and 'Boring!' will be a fairly common response. "Shakespeare remains the only writer studied by every young person in Britain, but many leave formal education determined never to come into contact with the Bard again."

Currently 11 to 14 year olds have to study Much Ado About Nothing, Richard III or The Tempest. But Ms Evans expressed concern over the way these plays are assessed - through written tests on just two scenes of a play. Not only does this mean that pupils are repeatedly focusing on the same two scenes, but they study the lines in isolation from the rest of the play, she said. "Coming up with alternative means of assessment - such as introducing a practical element to exams - is a key component of our campaign," she said. "I believe passionately that all teaching should include some theatre-based activities."

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "Shakespeare is a vital part of our literacy heritage and always will be - it's vital that pupils learn the great classics. "The best teaching is based on a creative, in-depth approach leading to understanding and this is what schools are already delivering. "We have issued guidance to schools and teachers that Shakespeare should be taught in an active, engaging way, focusing on the play as a piece of drama, emphasising interpretation, thinking about the characters and how they appeal to the audience, and considering the meaning and richness of the language. "The National Curriculum programmes of study clearly specify that pupils should study a whole play by Shakespeare."


Darren Mallory said...


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Jonathan Siberry said...

Hi I totally agree, Shakespeare can only be truly enjoyed and understood in the theatre. It adds spark, passion and enthusiasm and visualised words which stimulates learning.

It should be part of the curriculum that pupils see a live performance, plus it will keep theatre alive in such a cinema oriented world.

Jonathan (representing a building services london company)

Doc said...

Our school in Cincinnati has built a nice relationship with the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. Their educational branch comes into our school for Freshman level performances, but the upper classes all go to see Shakespeare--the kids LOVE it, and I'd encourage anyone to do the same--build a partnership.

In addition, our Shakespeare students (in the elective course) also go to see the play they read.

I am currently working on a Shakespeare podcast. If you'd like info, shoot me an e-mail at

Thanks! And great blog!

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