Royal Shakespeare Company

Young people across Norfolk schools are getting a better understanding of Shakespeare, thanks to a partnership between the Wensum Trust, Norwich Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The Trust is the first in Norfolk to become a Lead Associate School for the programme which aims to give young people the most engaging and joyful experiences of Shakespeare and live theatre possible.

The Wensum Trust and Norwich Theatre are hosting training days for teachers, led by an actor from the Royal Shakespeare Company, which explores how to introduce Shakespeare into the classroom, and look at different exercises and activities which can be used to help make the subject more accessible. 

Hayley Murrow, Creative Learning Partnerships Manager at Norwich Theatre, said: “Providing access to high quality teacher CPD opportunities like this make Shakespeare accessible to all students. Teachers explore drama techniques and have access to resources that get students up on their feet and exploring Shakespeare texts in a fun and practical way."

“You will often find that for those students who find it difficult to connect to Shakespeare, the techniques taught in this programme provide a real switch moment in their learning, allowing them to enjoy it, boosting their confidence at the same time. 

“It’s hoped Wensum Trust will lead the way for other schools within Norfolk to get involved in the programme. Our ambition is to hold a playmaking festival in the next academic year, where students from the Wensum Trust and other schools can come together to put on a Shakespeare performance.”

Tom Rolfe, Strategic Lead for Secondary Schools at the Wensum Trust, said: “The purpose of the project is to support the way Shakespeare is introduced and taught in the classroom for children of different ages. 

“Shakespeare is a key part of the curriculum and it is important children start to have an understanding of it before they reach their GCSEs so it is not so daunting. This programme will help increase student confidence in wellbeing and also give teachers the tools to confidently deliver the subject in the classroom.

“The Wensum Trust is really proud its schools are the first to take part in the programme in Norfolk and we are looking forward to working with both Norwich Theatre and the RSC further in the future.”

Jacqui O’Hanlon, Director of Learning and National Partnerships at the RSC, said: “We're thrilled that the Wensum Trust is part of our Associate Schools Programme (ASP) as a Lead Associate School in collaboration with Norwich Theatre. We know that first encounters with Shakespeare’s work are critical and the ASP is an example of how schools and theatres can work in partnership to create opportunities for young people to enjoy, participate in, shape and make performances of Shakespeare’s plays, in classrooms and communities. 

“We believe that all children benefit from an arts rich education but it takes school leaders and classroom teachers, like those at Wensum Trust, to make that a reality. We are always incredibly inspired by schools that make a commitment to long term partnership, and Wensum Trust is particularly special as it expands and deepens our collaboration with Norwich Theatre. 

“Research tells us that as well as supporting the development of literacy skills, the theatre-based approaches at the heart of our work can accelerate language acquisition; raise aspirations, improve student attitudes and foster key skills for life and work like better communication, self-belief, empathy, critical and creative thinking. 

“We look forward to further developing work and research with the young people and teachers at Wensum Trust, and artists and colleagues at Norwich Theatre.”