BARD-ford College takes leading role with RSC

Bradford College and RSC joint logo

Bradford College has been chosen by the Royal Shakespeare Company to play a leading role in bringing the world famous playwright’s work to the region’s youngsters.

The college is one of 10 schools nationwide to be selected as a ‘lead’ school as part of the RSC’s national Associate Schools programme and the first Further and Higher Education college to be awarded the status.

The RSC Associate Schools programme is the RSC’s long-term partnership programme with over 200 schools and 10 regional theatre partners nationwide that aims to immerse teachers and students in new approaches to Shakespeare’s plays.

As an RSC Lead Associate School, teachers from Bradford College demonstrate a deep commitment to sharing Shakespeare’s work with children of all ages and abilities using RSC approaches. To do this, they work intensively alongside practitioners from the RSC and The Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, to learn how RSC actors approach Shakespeare in the rehearsal room.

The teachers then work with theatre practitioners from the RSC and The Alhambra Theatre to adapt those techniques for the classroom - pushing desks to one side, getting the children up on their feet, speaking the words out loud and exploring the plays through techniques taken from the rehearsal room and performance. Both pupils and teachers work alongside each other in workshops and performance projects, developing their skills and knowledge. They then recruit and lead a local network of schools who use Shakespeare’s play to lead the culture for learning in their schools.

Bradford College will work with the RSC and The Alhambra Theatre for an initial two years and will have the opportunity to renew after that time. 

Lisa Edwards, course leader for FE Performing Arts at Bradford College, said: “The project will allow the students to take creative risks and challenge their expectations when working with the set texts. As a staff team we are excited to see how the next academic year will be inspired by our work with the RSC.”

Speaking about the newly-appointed Lead Schools, Director of Education for the RSC, Jacqui O’Hanlon, said: “Our Associate Schools programme is based on a simple truth: that schools believe other schools when it comes to what makes the biggest difference to teaching practice, to aspirations and to the lives of the children they teach. Now entering its second year, we are thrilled to announce our new cohort of Lead Associate Schools who demonstrate on a daily basis the impact of an arts rich curriculum. Lead Associate Schools are full of children, teachers and governors who inspire each other and their local communities with Shakespeare’s work. We are incredibly proud to work in partnership with such talented, passionate partners at a time when there has never been a more urgent need for work that brings us together and gives us a voice."

Jacqui Vaughan, Head of School for The McMillan Faculty of Education at Bradford College, highlighted another benefit of the partnership. She said: "As one of the biggest Further Education colleges in the UK, and one of the largest providers of Higher Education outside the university sector, Bradford College is uniquely placed to maximize the impact of this work on young people. This includes the ability to embed good practice directly into the training for new and existing teachers. We are currently the only college that has an allocation for Initial Teacher Training outside the university sector. We have managed to maintain this position despite all the competition in and changes to ITT in recent years. We achieved Grade 2 in our most recent Ofsted inspection (2014).”

The strong links between the Arts and Education Faculties at the College also provide an opportunity to conduct research into the impact on young people’s attainment, confidence and wellbeing as a result of working in this way. The research will be undertaken through the recently formed McMillan Centre for the Arts in Education, and will help to support the delivery of Shakespeare and the arts in schools across the City.

Bradford College’s lead school status comes after they successfully worked with local schools earlier this year on a performance of Julius Ceasar at the Alhambra Theatre, and just last month, at the Swan Theatre in Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon as part of the RSC’s National Schools Festival.