English Baccalaureate

Written Evidence Submitted by The Royal Shakespeare Company

1. Summary

 

Whilst we understand the move to create an E-Baccalaureate, we are concerned that it is possible to get this qualification through achieving a C grade in English Language, which does not currently include the study of Shakespeare.

We believe it is meaningless to say that Shakespeare is a compulsory part of the KS4 curriculum if there is no effective way of mandating practice in schools through the inclusion of Shakespeare in KS4 examinations.

We want to ensure that Shakespeare retains a central and meaningful place in the educational and cultural life of KS3 and KS4 pupils.

We hope the Education Select Committee will support our calls for his plays to have a proper place in the assessment framework for the study of English within the E-Baccalaureate.

2. The choice of subjects included in the E-Bac: what we’ve seen in terms of the study of Shakespeare since the National Curriculum tests at KS3 were cancelled

Our experiences at KS3 suggest that Shakespeare’s removal from compulsory testing effectively removes him from the curriculum.

· As soon as the announcement about the removal of tests was made on 14th October 2088, we began to receive calls from teachers wishing to cancel places on KS3 Continuing Professional Development courses because managers would no longer release them as "Shakespeare is not a priority anymore".

· We have seen this trend continue with a 50% reduction in bookings for our KS3 professional development courses for teachers and many anecdotal reports from schools and teachers that Shakespeare is no longer taught at KS3.

· We conclude from this that when Shakespeare is taken out of the formal testing system, the teaching of his work reduces in importance. Developing skills in the teaching of Shakespeare therefore becomes a ‘nice to have’ as opposed to an essential requirement for securing an entitlement to complex culture for all children and young people.

3. What we know about effective teaching practice:

We – along with other theatre companies – have worked with schools and teachers for many years. We work with around 25,000 students and 2,500 teachers annually and our Learning and Performance Network now covers over 400 schools around the country, chosen because a high proportion of their pupils are entitled to free school meals and have little access to high quality culture.

From the evidence we’ve gained from our experiences, we know that active, theatre based approaches to teaching Shakespeare can engage and inspire all learners. We want to see more theatre based approaches to teaching Shakespeare adopted in classrooms. These approaches combine the rigour of textual analysis with an active exploration of the interpretive choices in the texts.

We are currently conducting research with the University of Warwick into the active teaching methods we use and the results show significant improvements in academic attainment, increased confidence and self-esteem, an extremely positive attitude to Shakespeare and a propensity for wider cultural engagement amongst the students who’ve experienced these methods. [1]

Our ‘Stand up for Shakespeare’ campaign, launched in 2008 with a manifesto which called for young people to See It Live, Start it Earlier and Do Shakespeare on your Feet, gained nearly 15,000 signatories and the support of educationalists, theatre artists, academics, teachers and young people across the country.

We know the practices endorsed by our manifesto bring Shakespeare to life for students of all ages and abilities and seed a life long engagement with Shakespeare in children and young people.

4. The implications of the E-Bac for pupils and schools - what we believe the current risks are:

However, these active approaches depend on teacher confidence in using such methods in the classroom and there are training and prioritisation issues.

We know that teachers already have a very limited exposure to Shakespeare during their formal training. In 2007 we conducted a poll of PGCE students about to enter the English teaching profession. The most that any student spent on the teaching of Shakespeare during their training was 4 hours and this was primarily focused around the needs of the KS3 National Curriculum test.

If it becomes possible for students to acquire an E-Baccalaureate without learning about Shakespeare we believe the study of Shakespeare’s plays will fall away in many areas, along with any innovations in the teaching practices required to secure a life long engagement with Shakespeare.

If Shakespeare is not included in the English component of the E-Baccalaureate at KS4, the study and enjoyment of his plays could become a thing of the past, rather than a cultural beacon whose work exposes the ever-present dilemmas of the human condition and lights the way for so many young people to a wider cultural engagement.

5. What we’d like to see:

We call on the Education Select Committee to ensure Shakespeare is a compulsory part of the English requirement of the E-Baccalaureate:

22nd March 2011


[1] An Evaluation of the RSC’s Learning and Performance Network, May 2009. Centre for Education Development, Appraisal and Research, University of Warwick http://culturallearning alliance.org.uk/evidence OR http://www.creativitycultureeducation.org/research-impact/exploreresearch/a-study-of-the-learning-performance-network-an-education-programme-of-the-royal-shakespeare-company,90,RAR.html