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Last Updated: Friday, 15 September 2006, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
Appeal over Shakespeare lessons
Shakespeare first folio
The RSC wants Shakespeare's work to leap off the page
The Royal Shakespeare Company has claimed that "boring" lessons are putting youngsters in England off Shakespeare's work for life.

It is beginning its campaign to transform the way his works are taught.

The theatre company said one of the problems was a lack of live performances of Shakespeare's work - so pupils had only the printed word.

Director of learning, Maria Evans, said they should act out scenes in class and have a practical element to exams.

In 2006-07 the company is hosting a festival which will see every play written by Shakespeare performed by the RSC itself and by other national and international theatre companies.

Narrow focus

Writing in the Times Educational Supplement, Ms Evans said: "Stop your average young person in the street, ask them what they think about Shakespeare and 'Boring!' will be a fairly common response.

"Shakespeare remains the only writer studied by every young person in Britain, but many leave formal education determined never to come into contact with the Bard again."

She said the current assessment format involved a focus on two scenes from a play - the present texts for 11 to 14-year-olds being Much Ado About Nothing, Richard III or The Tempest.

Not only did this mean pupils were repeatedly focusing on the same scenes, but they studied the lines in isolation from the rest of the play, she said.

"Coming up with alternative means of assessment - such as introducing a practical element to exams - is a key component of our campaign.

"I believe passionately that all teaching should include some theatre-based activities."

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "Shakespeare is a vital part of our literacy heritage and always will be - it's vital that pupils learn the great classics.

"The best teaching is based on a creative, in-depth approach leading to understanding and this is what schools are already delivering."

Official guidance said Shakespeare should be taught "in an active, engaging way", focusing on the play as a whole piece of drama.

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