Shakespeare Schools Festival also unites different schools. As the performance day approaches, children attend a Company Workshop where they work with a trained theatre professional alongside a cast from another school. By taking part in drama games together and showing each other their work in progress, children feel encouraged and inspired.
What is the Shakespeare Schools Festival all about?
It is the world’s largest youth drama festival. Through taking part, children grow in confidence and resilience and do better in class. This autumn, over 20,000 young people from schools right across the UK will perform abridged Shakespeare plays on local professional theatre stages.
The festival is the flagship project of the charity Shakespeare Schools Foundation [SSF]. We work with every type of school, including primary, secondary and special schools, and Pupil Referral Units [PRUs].
When was it established and has it grown bigger every year?
Our festival started in 2000, with eight schools performing at the Torch Theatre in Pembrokeshire, Wales. This year, over 750 schools from every nation and region of the UK are performing at 118 theatres, from Glasgow to Guernsey and Ipswich to Inverness.
We would love to involve as many children as possible, but for that we need even more generous supporters to
join our cause! [See how at the foot of this feature]
What do you think being involved with the Shakespeare Schools Festival gives students?
After taking part in our festival, one boy told us: “It felt like I’d conquered the world!”
Through this experience, children develop the confidence to last a lifetime – they make new friends and become more empathetic. They experience the thrill of working creatively and do better back in the classroom.
Learning Shakespeare is a huge challenge. After
weeks and months of hard work, they perform on
stage in front of a packed audience. And when they take their final bow, they are bursting with pride.
Are there any other events you run for schools throughout the year?
We also devise new, exciting and accessible projects to deepen learning and enrich educational experiences for children with a range of needs and abilities.
These have included immersive projects for children with autism and communication needs and whole-school Shakespeare experiences promoting literacy, articulacy and fun; using Shakespeare to fuel cross-curricular learning, including financial literacy and PSHE.
We also offer workshops focusing on creative approaches to learning, where children are encouraged to think deeply and broadly – and have a lot of fun at the same time.
All our workshops are designed to introduce Shakespeare to children in ways that are active and engaging. They are tailored for different age groups, including
Early Years, Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2,
Key Stage 3 and GCSE.
Do you actively go into schools yourselves?
Yes, our facilitators go into schools to deliver our
projects and workshops, sharing expertise from the theatre world.
For example, through our Play In A Day workshop, students take a rehearsal room approach, exploring and experimenting with different ideas as they build and shape their own performance. We leave a legacy of best practice and teachers who feel more empowered and confident in their roles.
What are the main challenges involved in achieving your goals?
The need for SSF’s work is more acute than ever, and it’s never been so difficult to do it. It’s no secret that schools have had a very tough few years.
Funding constraints, teacher workload and the demands of the curriculum have all taken a dramatic toll on arts provision, and have made it harder than ever for schools to take on additional projects – even with all of the resources and support that SSF provides.
However, with SSF, we are giving children the skills they need to succeed – and with the increased confidence, collaboration and empathy they gain, we are helping to create the citizens of the future that our society needs as well.
With SSF’s 20th anniversary approaching in 2020, what plans do you have for the future?
We think every child deserves the chance to gain the skills they need to succeed.
As a charity, we’re always seeking to respond to the changing landscape so that we can best meet the needs of our young people.
As we look forward to our 20th anniversary year, we’re considering exciting new projects and ways of working, while continuing to empower young people with vital life skills through the festival.
Watch this space!
Teachers see a huge transformation in their students. In 2018, 98% of teachers said their students were more confident as a result of the festival, 98% also said students were more resilient, and 82% of teachers also reported gains in students’ academic attainment.
- For more information on the SSF charity, to book a workshop or sign up for the 2020 festival, call
020 7601 1800 or visit shakespeareschools.org
- The Shakespeare Schools Foundation is taking part in the Big Give Christmas Challenge from December 3-10. Any donations made during this time will be doubled. To find out more, visit shakespeareschools.org/biggive19