20th November 2009 at 00:00
Former English and drama teacher Fiona Banks, head of learning at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London, still misses classroom life

Did you always want to work in education?

It is something I have always been interested in. As a young person, I did a lot of work with youth groups, and all through my time at university I was still teaching. To go and train formally as a teacher just seemed like the natural thing to do.

Why did you decide to leave teaching?

I enjoyed it, but was looking for head of department roles and wanted something that would bring together my interests in theatre and education. I realised that an arts organisation or theatre would allow me to do that, and was successful in my application for the Globe.

Was it quite a shock to the system?

I kept expecting bells to go off. I think the biggest change - and everyone in our team who comes from teaching says the same - is that you can go and get a takeaway coffee in the morning and drink it at your desk. But I really miss everything happening at the time it's supposed to happen, the way it does in schools.

What kind of children do you work with?

We have about 600 young people a day who come for workshops at the Globe as part of our Lively Action programme. They come from primary and secondary schools and even university. The workshop practitioners are actors or directors who we train to deliver workshops at particular levels. Something that being a teacher has helped me to maintain and develop is that the learners' needs are at the centre of what we do. Everything is bespoke to the needs of that group, however old.

What would you change about the drama curriculum?

I would love drama to be an official part of the national curriculum and not just contained within speaking and listening. I would have said that I wanted creativity to be given due recognition and status within the curriculum, but with the revisions of the early-years, primary and secondary curriculum, that has more or less happened. Of course, lots of schools are already doing that.

What there has not been is an opportunity for teachers and senior management to have sufficient time to look at how they might implement that change as they would wish. Teachers absolutely have a desire to bring creativity into the classroom, but because of things like time, structure and curriculum demands, making that a reality is more difficult.

Who has been your greatest influence?

On a day-to-day basis, it is the young people I work with. It is what they give you that inspires you to develop and come up with new ideas and find new ways of addressing an issue. Also the Globe's learning team, past and present, who have always been inspiring.

What is the best thing about your job?

There are so many things, and you never know what is going to happen every morning. I feel privileged. But the best thing is probably just having the opportunity to develop projects that can provide exciting, stimulating access to the arts, to the cultural institution, and to creative learning, for as many young people as we can. I want (young people) to feel that they have the right to access the arts if they want to - I don't feel that they should, but if they wanted to, they could. I don't want them to think that arts organisations are for a rich elite.

A really good example of that is our project called Playing Shakespeare, funded by Deutsche Bank, where we give 12,500 tickets to 14 to 16-year-olds over a two-week period. We create a production especially for those pupils; we don't just want to give them tickets to the theatre and say, "That's how it is".

What is the biggest issue in education, and how would you tackle it?

There are always so many in education, and that is one of the challenges. Something that came up recently in the debate about taking a more creative, early-years approach into the primary curriculum is that some people feel that if you are learning actively or creatively, you are not learning academically. That is completely not true. I would like to see an acknowledgement that active learning is a very powerful tool to access deep academic learning for a wide range of young people, some of whom are disenfranchised by a very head-centred, static approach to learning.

Would you encourage your friends to go into teaching?

Absolutely. There aren't many more exciting jobs to do. Nothing beats the thrill of it and obviously there are some difficult times, but just to have that relationship with young people and to be able to bring about even

a tiny moment of revelation for a child on a daily basis is exciting. When you are teaching, you build a good relationship with your class, and going on that journey with young people is something I miss.

What is the worst excuse you have ever heard?

When I was at university, a fellow student said she couldn't hand in her essay because she was allergic to white, and didn't have any coloured paper to write on. I don't think any of my pupils, or any teachers, have managed to top that


1997: Head of learning at Globe Education at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

1994-1997: English and drama teacher at Cator Park School, Beckenham, Kent

1993: English and drama PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London

1992: Agent, Acting Associates actor agency

1990-92: Various stage management and directing work at London fringe venues

1990: MA in drama, University of Essex.

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