Georghia Ellinas, Head of Learning at Globe Education, explains how the challenge of performing a Shakespeare play can support both academic and social transition to secondary school.

Transition has been highlighted by Ofsted repeatedly in recent years – in Moving English Forward (2013), for instance, and again in Key Stage 3: The Wasted Years? (2015) – and schools are increasingly recognising the importance of improving provision and support as learners enter KS3.

For more able learners in particular, inadequate levels of challenge during the transition phase can have long-lasting and significant impact, as outlined in Ofsted’s report The Most Able Students: An Update on Progress Since June 2013 (2015): “By the time the most able students have reached Key Stage 4 when the ‘serious tracking’ begins, they have often been left to flounder for too long and are not able to maximise their potential.”

Support for teachers and learners

For the past four years, Globe Education has been working with schools on a project to support both the academic and social sides of transition, aligned to the national curriculum requirement of studying two complete Shakespeare plays during KS3. Dubbed “New Journeys with Shakespeare”, the project brings together all Year 7 students to rehearse and stage a 30- to 60-minute ensemble performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – selected for its themes of transition, entry to an unknown place, friendships breaking and mending, and the impact of individuals’ behaviour on those around them.

Starting at the first secondary school intake day for Year 6 students, a Globe Education Practitioner tells the story of the play, prompting learners to start using the language, engaging with the characters’ moral dilemmas, and exploring the relevance of the themes to their own experiences. Training is delivered to support the primary and secondary English teachers involved, followed by a second workshop for students at the start of their first term in Year 7.

Setting high expectations

“New Journeys with Shakespeare” is for all students; it isn’t specifically designed for more able learners, but it guarantees a challenging curriculum offer on entry into Year 7, providing ample stimulation for able readers and those who enjoy grappling with more complex language features. Often there can be a perception that KS2 hasn’t been as challenging as in fact it is, or that learners haven’t had experience of Shakespeare – and this perception can mean they’re not always given the opportunity to read challenging texts from the start of KS3.

This project raises the bar right from the start of secondary school – for both learners and teachers. Heads of department involved in the project comment on the way it brings the department together, challenging them to reconsider their approach to Shakespeare. Having started the school year with such an exciting and stimulating project, you can’t go back to something boring and dull. Students’ expectations have been raised, and the curriculum must match this.

As well as supporting collaboration across the department, the project means teachers get to know their students very quickly, due to the high levels of interaction it demands. Even those children who tend to be shy and retiring play a part. This in turn helps to establish and raise teachers’ expectations of their students, having got to know them well from the start.

Building a strong social bridge

This is a very collaborative project, requiring learners to work together closely to prepare for the performance, and this builds trust, respect, confidence and self-esteem. Often there’s an assumption that more able learners are able in all areas. This this isn’t necessarily true; they may not have well-developed collaboration skills, or the confidence to perform. The project’s inclusive element means everyone is part of the group – no one is separated out – helping to create a strong social bridge into KS3.

Globe Education encourages a promenade performance, with peers, family members and carers coming into the school to watch the play as it moves through a series of different areas. The learners take over the space in the school, and they’re the stars. Often that doesn’t happen until much later, when they get to Year 11 or 13, but here they get that sense of ownership and recognition right from the beginning. It’s a challenging start, but one that is collaborative and supportive, giving them a strong foundation for KS3 and beyond.

How to get involved

NACE is delighted to be working in partnership with Globe Education this year, to support NACE members in providing challenge through all phases of the English curriculum. To access free resources to support teaching and learning using Shakespeare – including lesson plans, revision guides, videos and interactive online tools – visit The Globe’s Teach Shakespeare website.

Globe Education’s transition project is currently running at three secondary schools in London and one in Lincolnshire. To discuss opportunities to run a similar initiative at your own school, or to develop a bespoke project, contact the Globe Education team on +44 (0)20 7902 1435 or email

Keen to experience a Globe Education workshop for yourself? Join us at the English for the More Able conference in York on 15 March 2018 – now open for online booking, with a NACE members’ early-bird discount available until 30 November 2017.

View all upcoming NACE events.

Image credit: ​Cesare De Giglio 
Wednesday, November 8, 2017