King Ethelbert School have used RSC approaches and work with the Marlowe Theatre to raise aspirations and engagement.

A Midsummer Night_s Dream_ A Play for the Nation. The Canterbury Players_ April 2016_2016_Photo by Topher McGrillis _c_ RSC_189864
A student from King Ethelbert School performing in A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Play for the Nation

As a coastal school with a demographic that is amongst the most economically challenged in the country, King Ethelbert School have been searching for a way to break through the mindset of limited aspirations and low cultural engagement.

Now, since working with RSC Education and The Marlowe Theatre, they can confidently say that every student, if asked, would claim to enjoy learning about Shakespeare and no longer see it as something that has “nothing to do with them,” says Head of English, Carol O’Shea.

For King Ethelbert, perhaps the most difficult aspect of transforming the teaching of Shakespeare is getting teachers to emerge from their long-established comfort zones. One teacher explains, “When we began on our journey to make Shakespeare learning more active through rehearsal room approaches, I was probably the one who was most resistant as I lacked the confidence to join in, much less deliver a rehearsal room session. However, once I had delivered a series of rehearsal room lessons, I was quite happy taking students through a whoosh! (in a very small space!), allowing them to play about with a text and find out for themselves, in parts.”

Since working with the RSC and The Marlowe Theatre, students have begun to make rapid progress, made all the more special for having figured it out for themselves.

One Year 10 student explains, “When my teacher started our first lesson with practical activities, I realised it was quite simple and a lot easier for us to interpret. I didn’t allow myself to become overwhelmed with the difficult language, instead I was enjoying interpreting the play and understanding it”.

The results have spread far beyond the classroom too. Carol says, “It is about transforming lives through the uptake of special opportunities which are either provided by the RSC or created by Associate Leadership teams themselves”. These rich opportunities are provided by their Regional Theatre Partner, The Marlowe Theatre.

Shakespeare now features regularly across their curriculum. As Carol explains, “actively using rehearsal room approaches has clearly been significantly enriching for our students across the partnership and their teachers in many ways and has led to significant gains in terms of literacy, oracy, examination results and personal skills”.


This is an edited version of the full case study. You can read the full version here: King Ethelbert School Case Study