Young Shakespeare Nation

26 September 2013

RSC Education and The Prince's Foundation for Children and the Arts Launch Young Shakespeare Nation to inspire a generation of students with and through Shakespeare.

Watch our latest 'Billy' animation featuring the voice of David Tennant:  

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and The Prince's Foundation for Children and the Arts (CATA) are inviting all schools to join Young Shakespeare Nation, a new initiative to transform students' experiences of Shakespeare in school - and give them unprecedented access to every single one of his plays.

The launch comes as Government plans for all state educated children to study a minimum of two Shakespeare plays between the ages of 11 and 14 have been released, with some claiming that the new English curriculum lacks creativity and will 'stifle' teachers. However, research conducted by the University of Warwick on behalf of the RSC shows that using RSC Education's methods for teaching Shakespeare significantly improves pupils' attitudes to school and learning in general, as well as to Shakespeare. Teachers also reported improved self-esteem amongst students and a greater belief in their own abilities. Separate research carried out in the US by The Ohio State University suggests that a positive attitude to Shakespeare in students is predictive of higher test scores in English and Maths.

Young Shakespeare Nation (YSN) responds to this research and invites schools across the country to join the RSC and CATA on an inspirational journey through all Shakespeare's plays over the next six years. Driven by the RSC's commitment to stage each of the 36 plays in the First Folio between now and 2019, the initiative also forms part of the celebrations around the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth in 2014 and the 400th anniversary of his death in 2016. Both organisations are committed to ensuring all young people, and particularly the most disadvantaged, are given access to the highest quality arts and culture.

Any school can get involved in Young Shakespeare Nation. Many have already opted to participate in the live broadcast element. Others like Honley School in West Yorkshire, are choosing to journey with us through each of the plays. Honley will work with 36 other local schools to stage 30 minute versions of all 36 plays in a grand festival in 2019. There are so many ways that schools can get involved in Young Shakespeare Nation including;

  • Free performances streamed live into classrooms: the first takes place this November with Richard II played by David Tennant;
  • Engaging educational resources: new online resources, ideas and opportunities to support learning will be released as each play opens on the RSC's stage;
  • Live theatre experiences: First Encounter touring productions for 8-13 year olds staged in Stratford-upon-Avon and around the UK, together with a wide range of other opportunities to see Shakespeare's plays in performance on tour and at our home in Stratford-upon-Avon;
  • Online resource bank: including videos, images, teachers' packs and more;
  • Professional development for teachers: including INSET days for teachers delivered at any school across the UK, and 1 - 5 day intensive courses delivered in Stratford-upon-Avon;
  • New School Awards: schools can apply to become a Young Shakespeare Nation School and we'll be announcing the criteria for our new award in November;
  • Plus events, workshops, seminars, and more;

The first opportunity for schools to be part of Young Shakespeare Nation is on 15 November 2013, when Richard II, directed by Artistic Director Gregory Doran and with David Tennant in the title role, is streamed live into classrooms across the country. Hosted by Konnie Huq, up to 1,000 secondary schools across the UK can watch the performance simultaneously and take part in a live Q&A afterwards with Gregory and David. For more information and to register for the broadcast, visit:

In February 2014 the First Encounter The Taming of the Shrew production will tour to schools and theatres around the UK. This is another way for young people and teachers to experience Shakespeare, this time, live in their local community. The distilled version of the original text includes both an introduction to the performance and a chance to hear from the actors.

Jacqui O'Hanlon, the RSC's Director of Education, explains further: 'Over the years we've seen the transformative effect that our approaches to rehearsal and to the creation of performances can have on audiences and actors of all ages. We see the same transformations happening in classrooms when teachers use our tried and tested techniques. We shouldn't shy away from the fact that Shakespeare is challenging and that his work requires specific kinds of effort to unlock its meaning. It is precisely because of that that it is so rewarding, for students, actors and audiences alike. We want to share our ways of working with teachers and students and transform experiences of Shakespeare at school. As well as stimulating the imagination of learners of all ages, our research shows that there is a fundamental shift in a young person's view of themselves and their attitudes to learning when they are given the tools to unlock Shakespeare's words and work.

'Young Shakespeare Nation is our response to a feeling that teachers are wrestling with a new curriculum that prescribes an increase in the amount of Shakespeare that young people have to study. As the new curriculum takes hold, we want to support and work with teachers to meet this challenge, ultimately making a difference to the way young people first encounter Shakespeare in school.'

Jeremy Newton, CEO of The Prince's Foundation for Children and the Arts said, 'Every child in the UK should be given the opportunity to experience and enjoy Shakespeare's work and that means treating his plays not as dry texts but as living organisms, ready to be engaged with in an active, energetic way. Young Shakespeare Nation will offer many thousands of children their first chance to see Shakespeare in performance, whether on-stage or on-screen, with the preparation and follow-up needed to ensure the experience has life-long impact. Equally valuable is the aim of inspiring teachers as well as children – giving them practical help and expert guidance to build their confidence and enthusiasm for bringing Shakespeare into the classroom.'

To learn more about Young Shakespeare Nation, visit: or


For further information about the RSC please contact:
Jo Hammond, 07739 330294
Jane Ellis, 07966 295032.

For further information about CATA please contact:
Marcus Stanton, 020 8617 0210/ Mob. 07900 891287

Notes to Editors:
The 'Billy' series of short animations have been created for the RSC by The Brothers McLeod. See this and other films in the series at:

The Prince's Foundation for Children and the Arts:
The Prince's Foundation for Children and the Arts was founded by HRH The Prince of Wales with the fundamental belief that every child has the right to be inspired by the arts. The Prince of Wales remains a very active President. To fulfil HRH's vision, the charity's UK wide arts engagement programmes work with deprived children from areas of social and economic disadvantage and build partnerships between their schools and local high quality cultural venues. The charity takes children on a journey into their local arts venue and unlocks the arts for those who need to be inspired by them the most, raising children's self-esteem and confidence, and nurturing their communication skills. Through the work of Children and the Arts, children learn that cultural venues are welcoming, accessible places to visit and since 2006 Children & the Arts has introduced over 300,000 children to life-changing arts experiences.

RSC Education:
Through its work with nearly 40,000 students annually across the UK and in 14 countries world-wide, RSC Education aims to make Shakespeare vivid, accessible and enjoyable for students and their teachers. RSC Education is leading a quiet revolution with teachers to shape and transform the way that young people experience Shakespeare. Our approach is rooted in 130 years of making theatre using our distinct range of skills and knowledge and adapting them for the classroom. RSC Education builds long-term relationships with schools, teachers and young people from right across the UK – particularly those who might not ordinarily experience our work.

For more information visit

The Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research (CEDAR) at the University of Warwick carried out research into the effects on pupils' 'Attitudes to Shakespeare' before and after being taught Shakespeare using Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) teaching techniques inspired by the ways in which actors and directors explore the plays in the rehearsal room. Teachers had a five day intensive training at the RSC and then had a professional actor from the Company to work with them for 2-3 days in school.

The project involved 572 students in 25 secondary school classes (Years 9 and 10), to test whether the project's methods were effective. Students were split into 'target' classes (ie learning with the project's teachers) or 'control' classes (not learning with the project's teachers) so it was possible to make comparisons between those who'd had the innovative teaching and those who'd not.

An independent evaluation showed that students' attitudes to Shakespeare significantly improved within a year, and, a little to everyone's surprise, students' attitudes to school generally also became more positive. This evaluation was carried out by Professor Steve Strand at Warwick University.

About US research
In 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 The Ohio State University (OSU) conducted research in the classrooms of teachers participating in a professional development programme which used the RSC's rehearsal room based approaches to teaching Shakespeare as its foundation. The research set out to determine if students' attitudes toward Shakespeare, learning, and reading changed significantly during their involvement with the Programme. The OSU research team led by Pat Enciso sought to determine if there was any change in students' academic achievement overall during the year, as compared with students who were not engaged with the program.
Findings indicate significant differences in attitude and achievement outcomes for students in 3rd-12th grade classrooms when the teachers used RSC approaches. Specifically the study found the following:

  • 2011-2012 findings indicate that among elementary and middle school students, interest in Shakespeare was predictive of higher outcomes in reading and math achievement test scores. By using two variables for data at pre and post (survey and achievement test scores) we were able to see how change in two outcomes would progress together from one point to the next; indicating that where increased interest in Shakespeare was evident, it was possible to predict higher achievement scores in reading and math.
  • The 2011-2012 pilot study of reading comprehension and vocabulary development indicated the students of teachers who participated in the RSC/OSU program scored significantly higher in student achievement on the nationally validated test.
  • Across all grade groups (elementary, middle, and secondary), students' positive attitudes toward Shakespeare increased along with improved attitudes toward school and school belonging (2010-2011).
  • Middle and secondary students also showed increased interest in reading, reversing a longstanding trend of growing disaffection with reading through the adolescent years.

For further information visit:

Richard II
Richard II runs from the 10 October – 16 November 2013 at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon before transferring to the Barbican Theatre in London from 9 December 2013 to 25 January 2013. The production is broadcast live into cinemas in the UK and around the world on 13 November 2013. Further information from:

First Encounter
RSC Education's First Encounter series for 8-13 year olds gives children and young people a vivid and enjoyable first experience of Shakespeare's work. The Taming of the Shrew, directed by Michael Fentiman opens in February 2014 in The Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, before a six week UK tour of schools and regional theatres, then travelling to the US to play at The Ohio State University. UK locations include the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury; St George's Hall, Bradford; The Grand Theatre, Blackpool; Curve, Leicester; and the New Vic in Newcastle-under-Lyme.

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Teaching Shakespeare