Theatre News

‘Rehearsal room’ approach to Shakespeare’s plays in schools can boost confidence and language development, major RSC study finds

The RSC released information from their work with schools across the UK

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The RSC’s Playmaking Festival, © RSC, photo by Sara Beaumont

A recent study, titled Time to Act, has investigated the impact of Shakespeare’s work on young people in schools.

Commissioned to investigate how the Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) teaching approaches serve young people (based on comparisons between year five students in 45 schools, where these approaches both are and aren’t used), the study explored how both confidence and linguistic skills were augmented by the study of Shakespeare in a “rehearsal room” way – involving the speaking and delivering of Shakespeare’s lines and working on the play in an active way.

In the area of confidence, 17.3 per cent of those taught Shakespeare by teachers who had been trained by the RSC for an initial period, were more confident in their ability to work out what to do next when stuck, and 13.8 per cent more confident with language.

When it came to language, students were much more likely to use complex sentences and more sophisticated language, while also “demonstrating better inferencing skills, imagining what might come next”, according to the report.

The RSC’s approach involved customised rehearsal-room based activities, compared with standard curriculum approaches – where educators are asked to “imagine the students are the actors and the director is the teacher.”

The news comes at a time when local arts funding is under serious thread – with Birmingham City Council the latest to impose widespread cuts to its grants to major institutions.