We need a compromise on Shakespeare

22nd September 2006 at 01:00
As a head of English and drama at one of the few independent schools that still takes the key stage 3 tests in English, I was fascinated by your article on the Royal Shakespeare Company's strictures on teaching ("RSC demands Shakespeare revolution", TES, September 15). I have taught and directed Shakespeare plays in secondary education and confirm that, in my experience, the best way to teach it, at least when children are younger and may find it more like a foreign language, is through acting.

I worry that criticisms of Shakespeare just give force to the lobby that shies away from real challenges for children, denying them a real education because it denies them difficulty. Good things usually require perseverance. Shakespeare's plays are simply the best that we have for understanding the people and the world around us, for the sublime quality and variety of expression and awe-inspiring storytelling.

However there is not the time to teach it all through performance.

Moreover, self-conscious adolescents can recoil from having to act things out, especially difficult texts.

Classroom education will often be a compromise, but better try and fail than not try at all. Those for whom it works have their eyes opened in one of the most wonderful ways education can. For those for whom it fails, we have just got to go on trying to do better and not give up.

Dr Mike Craddock Head of English and drama The King's School Gloucester

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