Part of our series of blogs from people across the country about what theatre has done for them and their community.

Azita Zohhadi is headteacher of Nelson Mandela Primary School in Sparkbrook, Birmingham, where 88% of pupils have a first language that isn't English and 45% are eligible for free school meals. Nelson Mandela Primary is an RSC Lead Associate School, heading up a cluster of 12 primary and secondary associate schools across Birmingham. Its goal is to give pupils opportunities to develop their knowledge, performance and oracy skills, and also enable parents to experience and take an active part in the cultural facilities of the region.

As a Lead Associate School, we are working on how to keep what we value in the curriculum – which is built on interactivity – whilst adhering to social distancing guidance.

Some of our children during this pandemic are living in significantly changed family circumstances with increases in unemployment and increased overcrowding. Academic gaps is the obvious focus for schools however we must not (and cannot) underestimate the need to focus on the social and emotional needs of the children too.

Azita Zohhadi at school

We value proposals for blended learning and projects where our Associate schools can be working together eg. through Q&As and meetings with time to talk.

Pupil voice has always been important too, so we can see how important it is to continue our work with the RSC on building and developing our Shakespeare Ambassador programme. The good news is the Department for Education are absolutely clear that they want us to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum.

The possibilities for next year are exciting – although there is a lot of work to do. We are working with the RSC over the summer holiday period to run summer schools for our children and children in our Associate Schools. We are also looking forwarding to working with the RSC and other schools on the equalities agenda, using Shakespeare’s work to explore issues of race and identity. Schools are having to adapt significantly and it’s an incredible comfort knowing that we have the RSC supporting us in this new educational challenge.

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