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Does Shakespeare still matter for today’s pupils?

PUBLISHED: 11:52 19 April 2016 | UPDATED: 11:52 19 April 2016

Attleborough Academy Year Eleven students who have been studying William Shakespeare. From left, front, Georgia Lancaster, 15; Leah Smith, 16; Trent Clatworthy, 16; and James Newell, 15. Back, Jade Wiley, 16; Keziah Collier, 16; Harry Goodrum, 15; and Ryan Miles, 16. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Attleborough Academy Year Eleven students who have been studying William Shakespeare. From left, front, Georgia Lancaster, 15; Leah Smith, 16; Trent Clatworthy, 16; and James Newell, 15. Back, Jade Wiley, 16; Keziah Collier, 16; Harry Goodrum, 15; and Ryan Miles, 16. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2016

This Saturday marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. Four centuries on, how relevant is the Bard to educating our children?

The national curriculum says pupils should read two Shakespeare plays in Key Stage 3 - their first three years at high school - and be taught at least one Shakespeare play in Key Stage 4, when studying GCSEs.

By the time they leave Attleborough Academy, pupils will have read A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, and Macbeth, and they will probably have studied some Shakespeare at junior school as well.

Caroline Graham, head of English at the school, said: “Initially, they come with preconceived ideas of it being boring and dull and using language they do not understand. However, what we have done is say that Shakespeare is meant to be read. The important thing is to make it become alive for them, and make it come off the page.

“We have got very good links with our drama department and we have taught Shakespeare through drama.

“They become engaged in the ideas. Shakespeare has amazing stories and is talking about the human condition, and once they get into it and realise the stories and ideas are exciting, they are just away.”

She added: “It’s trying to get them engaged in the ideas, and once you do, the language ceases to be a barrier for them. That’s one of the greatest problems for them, but as soon as they start acting it they starting living it.”

She said because pupils know that Shakespeare has a lot of kudos, they gain confidence when they realise they are able to understand and analyse his works, and it can act as a springboard for other topics they study in English.

She added that she had noticed that studying Shakespeare not only led to improvements in young people’s reading and writing ability, but also made them more eloquent.

Do children benefit from studying Shakespeare? Comment below.

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