The importance of theatre in schools

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The Old Vic Schools Club allows 30 Year 9 – 13 students from 40 schools to become regular theatre goers for a year. That’s up to 1,200 students taking part each year.

It is no one hit wonder – during the year, not only will they get to visit the theatre for four live productions, they will also get a back stage tour and take part in a total of eight hours of workshops led by inspiring facilitators prior to each performance they see to help open up the themes in the text.

The students who take part develop the language and confidence to engage with the excellent programme of theatre that The Old Vic schedules. The students don’t all like what they see all of the time, but I am always excited that they express and justify their opinions. We feel so well looked after by the Education and Outreach team. The students feel empowered before they enter that iconic theatre space and they really do feel special and part of something important.

Taking a group to see King Lear last year was initially daunting. It was set to be a long evening but of course, whatever the experience, this is how young people should engage with Shakespeare. It was made to be watched, not simply read or studied as literature (despite Shakespeare’s genius). In fact, the experience was fantastic! Students had an opinion; they didn’t all love it but some did and importantly, they all understood the narrative and characters and even some of the subtleties thanks to the workshop and an engaging performance. Shakespeare is not off limits or boring for them, they have seen it as intended – on the stage!

Another wonderful feature that has influenced my practice is being part of a network of teachers. We meet three times per year to evaluate progress and socialise. It’s a great opportunity to meet with other creative minds to compare approaches and experiences, and develop new ideas.

I have had a wonderful range of CPD experiences through being part of Schools Club. I love the way that they are tailored to the needs of teachers and a fresh programme is developed with us and, in turn, our students in mind. The learning opportunities keep me up to date and engaged with the fluid world of theatre so that I can continue creating what I hope are inspiring learning experiences for the students I teach.

Despite being lucky enough to be part of a school that values the Arts and the importance of Drama, decreasing budgets and time constraints for a small department limit what I can offer students. This feels like a rare programme that allows access to the heart of one of London’s most iconic theatres. It opens up work from across the canon and new writing that speaks to today’s generation of young people. We feel very lucky to be involved.

Teacher, Schools Club

For over a decade The Old Vic has developed and delivered dynamic education projects that provide stimulating and relevant opportunities for young people from a diverse range of backgrounds. Take a look at our resources for teachers to find out how your school can get involved. 

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