Leeds meets Shakespeare

Posted on 26 September 2018

Dr Claire Chambers (PI, English, York) and Dr Sarah Olive (Co-I, Education, York) wrapped up the project Leeds Meets Shakespeare (funded by a ESRC York Impact Acceleration grant) with a celebration event for schools and the publication of a resource pack for teachers.

The aim of the project was to raise the attainment of year one pupils who have English as an Additional Language, by teaching Shakespeare through drama. Pupils from six Leeds ‘Arooj’ schools took part in the project. The Arooj collaborative is a long-standing partnership between Leeds City Council and a group of 14 primary schools working to raise the attainment of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage pupils in Leeds. ‘Arooj' is an Urdu word meaning ‘ascendancy’. Pakistani-heritage pupils are the largest ethnic minority group in Leeds, accounting for 6% of the overall school pupil population and are a key priority for the council as attainment levels for these pupils remains below their peers both in Leeds and nationally.

The project had a marked impact on pupils’ confidence and engagement particularly for lower ability and less confident pupils. It was found that using drama as a teaching method gave the more vulnerable pupils the confidence to participate. One teacher commented: “Many of my less confident pupils (largely to do with their command of English or their more passive involvement in lessons) have found their voice and have been invigorated.” It was also noted that pupils’ vocabulary skills had improved as a result of being exposed to the complex themes in Shakespeare’s plays. The use of drama to explore these complex themes within an exciting story plot also helped pupils to develop a good understanding of concepts such as ‘jealousy’, ‘evil’ and ‘revenge’.

Members of the British Shakespeare Association may recognise this project from Claire and Sarah’s guest post on their website last December. The British Shakespeare Association also features a video about the project if you would like to know more.

The project will feature as an Impact Case Study, demonstrating ways in which academic research improves practice beyond the higher education sector, for the University of York’s Research Excellence Framework submission.

Find out more.