Shakespeare at the Alt Academy in Oldham
Alt Academy is part of The Harmony Trust and part of the trust’s pledge is that the children have the opportunity to appear on stage. The school is part of a group of five schools in the area and they are lucky enough to have a Drama Co-ordinator and teaching staff who recognise the value of drama as part of the curriculum. The trust is keen to promote the arts and recognises that pupil progress is not just about academic matters but also about social and emotional development
It was clear from speaking to the pupils that their experience of working on abridged sections of Hamlet had been a really positive experience. They had very strong views about the nature of the play and its characters. They felt Claudius did not love Gertrude and manipulated her to get his hands on the throne. They also speculated that Gertrude may have instigated the plot as she was tired of being married to Old Hamlet! On the perennial subject of Hamlet’s madness, they felt quite sure that the trauma of your uncle marrying your mother, such a short time after your father’s death, would be enough to drive anyone genuinely mad! This was most strongly expressed by the young actor who had played the role of Hamlet.
The project encompassed many different areas of the curriculum with talented artists designing and producing t-shirts and banners which were displayed in the theatre. English lessons used the setting of Elsinore Castle as inspiration for creative writing and a talented Year Five writer used her setting description as the introduction to the production.
The things they found difficult were learning their lines and making sure they were in the right place on stage. They were helped to get to grips with Shakespeare’s challenging language by investigating Shakespeare’s original text at the side of simpler, more modern language versions. They all agreed the longer they worked on the project, the more confident they felt with the language.
Rachel Bamber, the Drama Co-ordinator, spoke about how drama can be an inclusive experience for children regardless of in some cases, Special Education Needs or English as an Additional Language. She has even managed to work on techniques to help children who are International New Arrivals.
Here at the BSA, we are thrilled to see Shakespeare’s work being taught in such creative, multi-layered ways. It would be fantastic to think that such good practice could happen in more schools around the country.