British cultural institutions join forces to prepare shakespeare for the age of the digital classroom

Schools placeholder image
  • TES, the community of 7.9m teachers, has partnered with the RSC, V&A, British Museum, BFI and Into Film to launch Teaching Shakespeare
  • The ambitious digital project brings together over 400 specially designed Shakespeare resources for the classroom into a single online collection, including many authored by teachers
  • Teaching Shakespeare provides many digital routes into Shakespeare’s work, revealing an often overlooked “long tail” of his lesser-taught work
  • The digital collection will be augmented by a series of digital events and Teacher Masterclasses, giving teachers in every corner of the UK the chance to quiz the experts in this year of Shakespeare

TES, the largest network of teachers in the world, is launching a digital project to help transform the teaching of Shakespeare, 400 years after his death. TES has joined forces with world authorities on Shakespeare to bring together for the first time a wealth of digitised materials, with the aim of making a significant impact on the status of cultural education in the classroom.

Research undertaken on behalf of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) demonstrates that teachers who adopt the RSC’s active approach to teaching Shakespeare see a significant improvement in student attitudes to reading, literacy and learning, as well as to Shakespeare. This ‘ripple effect’ also has a hugely positive impact on young peoples’ confidence, their understanding of what they are capable of and what they can aspire to.

Experts from the RSC, Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), British Museum, BFI (British Film Institute) and Into Film have spent months with the resources team at TES, compiling a special collection of classroom materials called Teaching Shakespeare. It will be the richest digital Shakespeare collection of its kind, covering theatre, language, poetry, history, music, design and film.

New data from TES Resources reveals the persistent popularity of Shakespeare in the modern classroom:

  • Teachers have shared with one another nearly 10,000 unique pieces of Shakespeare content since the very first one – a Romeo and Juliet mini-project – was uploaded in May 2006.
  • Since the launch of the new English national curriculum in September 2014, a new Shakespeare resource has been uploaded on average once every day.
  • Shakespeare resources were downloaded almost 2 million times in 2015 and have been downloaded 5.8 million times since 2006.

The data also reveal for the first time the most popular plays, according to the volume of resources created, swapped and sold by teachers, which are: Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest*. However, the partners hope that the digital tools in Teaching Shakespeare will help teachers and pupils to explore the “long tail” of Shakespeare’s work. Plays such as Coriolanus, Measure for Measure and Comedy of Errors are often overlooked by teachers, but still address many of the areas demanded by the national curriculum.

Teaching Shakespeare is the second project to have emerged from a cultural pilot, which was launched by Ed Vaizey, Minister of Culture and the Digital Economy, together with the Arts Council England to help put the arts at the heart of the classroom and also support the teaching of the core curriculum with a variety of world-class cultural and digital materials.

Lord Puttnam, champion of the project, and Chair of TES’s cross-party Advisory Board said: “this really is the stuff of dreams – a unique cooperation by a number of world renowned institutions, resulting in a quality of resource that’s never previously been possible. The challenge of teaching Shakespeare has been made more exciting than ever. I can’t think of a more appropriate way of celebrating the Bard in his anniversary year.”

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: “this digital project is an fantastic way for teachers to keep Shakespeare alive in the classroom.  As one of our greatest cultural exports he has influenced modern society around the world, and this innovative programme will continue to help inspire students and generations to come.”

Jacqui O'Hanlon, RSC Director of Education, Royal Shakespeare Company, said: “2016 is a chance for the whole country to celebrate the legacy of a man whose work, 400 years on, is still studied and performed the world over. By bringing these resources together into a single place for the first time and making them freely available online, this brilliant project supports RSC Education’s ambition to open Shakespeare’s work up to everyone regardless of their background, where they live, or what school they go to. Alongside our Schools’ Broadcasts and an invitation to schools to join the  ‘RSC Dream Team 2016’, Teaching Shakespeare provides more ‘ways in’ to Shakespeare’s work than ever before and gives teachers and pupils everywhere access to the highest quality resources at the touch of a button.”

* The Top 10 Shakespeare plays by resources downloaded in the TES Resources marketplace:

1.   Macbeth

2.   Romeo and Juliet

3.   A Midsummer’s Night Dream

4.   The Tempest

5.   King Lear

6.   Much Ado About Nothing

7.   Othello

8.   The Merchant of Venice

9.   Twelfth Night

10. Hamlet











About the project

The cultural pilot has been designed to increase the quality and usefulness of cultural resources in schools. It will test directly the impact they make in the classroom through data and dialogue with teachers.

Each partner brings something complementary to Teaching Shakespeare. The RSC is the world’s leading authority on Shakespeare’s canon and has over 50 years’ of experience of working with teachers and young people in schools all over the world helping them to unlock Shakespeare’s language, characters and stories. RSC Education has seen time and time again how its approach to teaching and learning about Shakespeare, which draws extensively on the RSC’s theatre-making expertise, can transform young people’s experiences of and attitudes to his work.

The V&A owns many artefacts that span centuries of productions of Shakespeare’s plays, including set and costume designs, props, contemporary popular prints, illustrations, and photographs. The British Museum has in its collection a large array of items that date back to the Elizabethan era, such as John Dee's magical mirror.  The BFI has the most comprehensive collection of Shakespeare’s works on screen – from the silent era to popular features and Into Film, has inspiring learning-through-film teaching resources using clips from film adaptions and Shakespeare inspired films plus exclusive interviews with film professionals to encourage discussion and develop a deeper engagement with Shakespeare. All of this has been brought together with the development and design expertise of TES, now the world’s largest online community of teachers and a digital space where teachers swap and sell ideas and resources 365 days per year, with over 1 million downloaded on any given day.

Joanna Mackle, Deputy Director, British Museum said: “this project is a wonderful example of the benefits of working collaboratively with many cultural partners. Learning through objects is a powerful tool, which can provide a focus for teaching but allows for wide ranging discussion. Combined with assets from theatre and film these rich resources will, I hope, be of invaluable use for teachers worldwide.”

Martin Roth, Director of the V&A said: “Shakespeare is the most famous writer the world has produced and 400 years after his death, we continue to see his legacy and influence grow and evolve. The V&A has many objects related to him across our rich and diverse collections and this project is a wonderful way to for us to share this content directly with the classroom. It is so important to provide a quality cultural offer within formal education to encourage, support and inspire the next generation of designers and makers and this is an exciting opportunity to work with TES and other established cultural institutions to broaden our reach across the teaching community.”

Amanda Nevill, Chief Executive of the British Film Institute, said: “this project is a fabulous opportunity to reach teachers directly with Shakespeare related jewels from the BFI National Archive.  Our research shows that film has the power to grab the attention of young people, and can inspire a new generation to discover the power of Shakespeare.”

Paul Reeve, CEO, Into Film said: “film is both a dynamic art form and a powerful resource for teaching and learning that can transform young people’s understanding of themselves and the world around them, and immerse them in a variety of themes and issues.  As Shakespeare's plays also do precisely that, our film learning resources are ideally placed to help bring his work to life for a new generation.  We are very excited to be collaborating with cultural partners and the TES on Teaching Shakespeare.”

The pilot is being co-ordinated by project leader Alison Cole.

Notes to Editors:

Teaching Shakespeare can be viewed at:

For more information

Peter Sigrist
TES Global
+44 (0) 7471 354 759 / +44 (0) 20 3194 3382

Tom Glover
TES Global
+44 (0) 7469 154 144 / +44 (0) 20 3194 3317