Shakespeare is a man of action

10th June 2005 at 01:00
It is ironic that Heather Neill's tribute to Rex Gibson ("Great Shakespeare educator dies", TES, May 27) coincides with the annual outcry at the way Shakespeare is tested at key stage 3.

I was privileged to be seconded to the Shakespeare in Schools project in the 1980s and witnessed the energy and passion with which Dr Gibson developed his work. His ideas about teaching Shakespeare revolutionised classroom-based approaches and have bolstered the view that Shakespeare study should be active, participatory and theatre-based. Unlike today's policy-makers, he knew how to engage young people and was committed to fostering the creative talents of teachers and students.

He believed that Shakespeare should be part of the national curriculum, but also criticised the reduction of Shakespeare's intellectual richness to a timed written test and opposed the abuse of Shakespeare as a device to exclude and stratify pupils.

Certainly, secondary English teachers owe a great deal to Dr Gibson's work.

It is a pity that the annual act of cultural vandalism that is the KS3 Shakespeare national test continues to undermine the unique blend of social and intellectual challenge which Dr Gibson's "active Shakespeare" seeks to promote.

Jane Coles

Lecturer in education Goldsmiths college London university

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