The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the charity behind the success of the annual Shakespeare Week celebration (18 – 24 March) for primary school children, has established a network of Shakespeare Hub Schools across England using Shakespeare to deepen and enrich the arts experiences of children.

Six hubs have been established across the country with 40 primary schools in the North East, Merseyside, Nottingham, Birmingham, Oxfordshire and London among the first to benefit. Each hub of 6-8 schools are working with creative practitioners from a wide range of disciplines to provide children with a great first introduction of Shakespeare, from Bollywood dance interpretations of Romeo and Juliet, to clay sculptures of characters from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The scheme is delivered free to schools by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and supported by Arts Council England. By 2021 there will be 12 hubs across the country, providing opportunities for over 20,000 children to develop their own creative work inspired by Shakespeare. It also provides platforms for children to share their experiences with their peers, Continuing Professional Development (CPD) sessions for teachers including specialist training led by artists and support in working with arts organisations, and the delivery of Arts Awards.

Jacqueline Green, head of learning and participation at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, said, “Children’s ability to relate Shakespeare’s stories and dilemmas to their world and life experiences can be a powerful learning tool. Young people’s participation in the arts is crucial to the development of their imagination, creativity and social skills. We passionately believe that Shakespeare is for all, not just the privileged few. By working with creative practitioners, we are able to introduce new and intriguing ways for children to discover the stories, language and heritage of the world’s greatest playwright.”

Many of the hubs schools will be showcasing their work during Shakespeare Week (18-24 March), and this year’s national celebrations will embrace the theme of language and literacy.

There is growing evidence* that young children have a significant shortfall in vocabulary, which is holding back their learning and has a long term impact on their communication, creative and critical thinking skills and confidence. Using Shakespeare to wage war on the word gap can help children find their words and develop vital language skills.

Jacqueline added: “More needs to be done to address the word gap in primary schools. Our language is changing constantly but the next generation’s vocabulary is shrinking. This year we are encouraging children participating in Shakespeare Week and our Shakespeare Hub Schools programmes to become ‘Will’s Word Warriors’. Shakespeare’s imaginative and inventive language is tinder to ignite young minds and can inspire a love of language.”

Minister for School Standards, Nick Gibb said, “Shakespeare Week is an opportunity to open up the great works of Britain’s most famous writer to our primary school children. I am thrilled that these creative hubs will bring William Shakespeare to life for a new generation of pupils.

“Being able to read the works of Shakespeare is a passport to a world of discovery and imagination -whether it’s the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet or the mistaken identity within A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Our focus on phonics and reading comprehension in primary schools is helping more young children open up the joys of the written word, and will help to ensure as many children as possible are able to progress onto enjoying reading Shakespeare both as part of the secondary curriculum and in their future lives.”

Celebrating Shakespeare

From 18-24 March 2019 more than two million primary school children across the nation will be celebrating Shakespeare’s language and stories as part of Shakespeare Week. The free scheme for primary school children and their families is run by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

Since its launch in 2014, over 6.5 million children have taken part in Shakespeare Week, which provides teachers and home educators with free tools to take Shakespeare into their classrooms and opportunities to explore Shakespeare outside the classroom, across every subject in the curriculum.

Highlights of this year’s celebration include:

Will’s Word Warriors – a series of fun activities and challenges developed by leading linguist Professor David Crystal that explore some of Shakespeare’s Forgotten Words, words from his lifetime but are not in common use today
The Big Shakespeare Book Hunt in 154 communities across the country, supported by Walker Books and the National Literacy Trust
William Shakespaw (Golden Retriever, age 2), will be visiting selected schools to help children sniff out some of Shakespeare’s Forgotten Words
Kids’ Zone online challenges for children to complete in school or at home including writing poetry, drawing comic strips or enjoying retellings of Shakespeare’s plays
Storytelling sessions in libraries across the UK, plus craft activities at selected Waterstones stores
A whole host of free, family-friendly fun at the Shakespeare houses in Stratford-upon-Avon. Take part in activities such as weaving a web of Will’s words, make a carnival mask to wear at Romeo and Juliet’s ball, or put your best foot forward in the Tudor dance workshops
Over 150 free resources for teachers, home educators and families covering subjects across the curriculum, including a new video of children’s author, Michael Rosen celebrating Shakespeare’s language and chairing a children’s Shakespeare debate. There are also new resources for teachers to develop debating skills in their classroom, exploring the moral dilemmas from Shakespeare’s plays

For more information and to register for free, see www.shakespeareweek.org.uk. Join the conversation on social media @ShakespeareWeek, #ShakespeareWeek.

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