Children to take on Shakespeare as the RSC goes back to school

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The Independent Online

Children will be encouraged to perform scenes from Shakespeare plays rather than merely studying the texts under a new campaign to be launched by the RSC next year. ""We want students to get up there and have a go," an RSC spokeswoman said. "We want them to be active and not to be afraid of the language."

The campaign will be launched in the new year and work will start in schools in September 2006, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) announced yesterday.Schools will also be encouraged to screen updated film versions of Shakespeare such as the BBC's current series of "modern reinterpretations", the next of which, Macbeth, will be shown on BBC1 on Monday.

The QCA has been conducting the largest-ever national consultation into the future of teaching English. Sue Horner, head of English, languages and the arts at the QCA, said it had found strong demand for more creativity in English lessons.

"There were calls to broaden opportunities for pupils to engage with the richness of the English cultural heritage. There was agreement on the growing importance of speaking and listening, a view that came particularly strongly from employers."

At present, pupils are not required to study Shakespeare until they start secondary school and their introduction to the playwright tends to be through intensive work on isolated scenes which they need to study to answer questions for compulsory national-curriculum tests at 14. Critics have complained that pupils are losing interest in Shakespeare because they no longer have the time to study or read a whole play. The RSC campaign is intended to show teachers how to bring Shakespeare alive through performance. "Anything that gets pupils interested in Shakespeare is fine by us," the spokeswoman added.