Hannah Young shares her experience of working with the RSC in one of our local, SEN Associate Schools
Hannah Young is many things, she has many hats. She is an actor, teacher and learning facilitator. Working with the RSC she became interested in the world of education and sharing RSC practices in the classroom. She is currently teaching at Welcombe Hills School, Stratford-upon-Avon and is co-leading a special educational needs (SEN) cluster of schools in our Associate Schools Programme, supporting the teaching of drama and literacy in SEN classrooms and mainstream school hubs across the UK.
I think this way of working has a huge impact on our students wellbeing. Firstly there are very obvious ways we can see this happening; we have sixth form students who have worked at the RSC as interns and it's been so moving to witness their journey into an adult world of work, where they are part of a bigger community than their community at school. That’s so profound for SEN particularly.
Romeo and Juliet takeover
We did a Romeo and Juliet take-over as a whole school project over two days. We adapted the story into ways that would be meaningful and connect with all of our young people. We considered the needs of our complex needs students, our MLD or autistic learners, across all key stages and dressed/themed the different spaces in the school accordingly.
Students could explore and go from room to room and find out about Romeo and Juliet by experiencing the themes/places/events of the story. Some of the conversations we had afterwards with our students were very insightful. Some students could articulate brilliantly how much it had excited them, how they felt like it was history coming to life or what is was like to be Juliet in that moment, and how difficult some of these decisions were.
Some students loved the sensory nature of the Verona market stall we created, some loved fighting and dancing with the sound beams in the hall. Most importantly they found things that connected with their life and also discovered new ideas to expand upon their lived experience.
We’re opening up ways and channels to communicate our feelings through the medium of theatre. Being able to look at it through a third person, one step removed from ourselves, means we can have more open conversations in a safe way. That’s hugely beneficial in every part of students’ wellbeing.
As an artist and as teacher it is essential to keep asking the people you are working with why this play/ this story and why now? And when you keep asking those questions then something really special will grow, as you find out what is it about this story that speaks to us now.
We have to make connections, to be rigorous with Shakespeare’s work in the rehearsal room and it’s exactly the same when you work with young people in fact you have to be more rigorous about it because it needs to chime with them wholeheartedly.
We’re putting art back in the centre of learning, we’re actively doing that in our classrooms, rehearsal rooms and drama studios across the UK. I am privileged to be part of this ongoing story.