THE ROYAL Shakespeare Company’s approach to studying Shakespeare can help improve the language skills of schoolchildren.
That was the finding of research carried out by the Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research (CEDAR) at the University of Warwick.
The study, which included 100 schools nationwide involved in the RSC’s Associate Schools’ Programme, focussed on evaluating the impact of the RSC’s approach to teaching Shakespeare, which uses the same techniques used by actors in rehearsals, and its impact on the language development of children and young people.
Over the past decade the programme – and its predecessor the RSC Learning and Performance Network – has reached some 1,320 teachers and 690,000 pupils.
Overwhelmingly, teachers said using RSC methods to study Shakespeare resulted in students becoming more willing to contribute ideas and opinions in class; improved pupils’ language skills and their confidence with language; and increased confidence and understanding in their ability to ‘crack’ Shakespeare.
Improvement was also seen in grammar, punctuation and spelling, and also in exam results.
Jacqui O’Hanlon, RSC director of education, said: “For the first time the research results provide us with evidence that supports what we’ve always known – that the combination of Shakespeare’s complex language and a theatre-based approach to teaching, combine to give children of all abilities the language and confidence to express themselves and their ideas more easily.
“The results also reinforce the importance of taking a long-term partnership-led approach – building local networks of talent and expertise with theatres and schools across the country. This enables us to deliver this work together and reach many more young people than would be possible for any of us on our own.
“In a recent speech, the new Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds, talked about the importance of equipping our children with character resilience and the ability to communicate, articulate and think critically. These skills are more important than ever in the 21st century and this research reaffirms why the arts and culture are such an important part of every child’s education, regardless of where they live and what school they go to.”
The research and the impact of the RSC’s approach to teaching Shakespeare will be the focus of a symposium for headteachers on Friday June 22 at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford.
Visit www.rsc.org.uk/education for further details.