Teacher Ambassadors

What is an SSF Teacher Ambassador?

SSF Teacher Ambassadors have gone above and beyond to champion the Festival and promote our values. Each year we select Ambassadors to represent SSF and fly the flag for Shakespeare and cultural education across the UK. As a thank you for all their work, Teacher Ambassadors access some fantastic rewards such as merchandise, free workshops and CPD training, blogging and networking opportunities. If you'd like to help us transform lives through the power of Shakespeare, get in touch with us by emailing [email protected].

What does a Teacher Ambassador do?

  • contributes to the creation of SSF workshops and resources
  • advises on the curriculum and educational landscape in their area
  • acts as a voice of experience in the Festival journey and advises new Teacher-Directors
  • uses their professional networks (Teach Meets, cluster meetings, newsletters, educational conferences etc) to promote SSF
  • champions SSF’s process and values throughout the Festival itself, helping to bring our unique process to more schools across the UK

Meet our lovely 2017 Teacher Ambassadors below.

Teacher Ambassadors

  • Debbie Anderes

    Teacher Ambassador

    Cheltenham College School

    SSF provides an excellent opportunity for children of all ages and abilities to experience Shakespeare in his purest form. Over the years, we have put on the full range of comedies, histories and tragedies and the young adults, who were in our first performance aged 12, still remember the buzz of being on a professional stage. As a school, we love the chance that this festival gives to both the natural performer and to those who are a little more shy, offering them their 5 minutes of fame. As a director, I have gained experience through both the workshops and the performances themselves and I also enjoy passing these insights on to first time directors. I highly recommend SSF to any school who has a passionate teacher, or student, willing to take the lead.

  • Victoria Bowyer

    Teacher Ambassador

    Background:

    I have been a Teacher-Director for Shakespeare Schools since 2015 and we have now built our entire Autumn Term curriculum around this in Year 6.  I first discovered Shakespeare through a theatre workshop at school and fell in love with the world of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but never dreamt that I would be directing Shakespeare on stage. I became involved in the Shakespeare Schools Festival after our headteacher attended a performance night and thought ‘we can do that..’  - we haven’t looked back. Watching the children come alive on stage and become their characters is amazing and hearing them use Shakespearean language on the playground has been a highlight of my teaching career.  Last year we decided to bring our entire year group of 60 children for two performances – a mammoth undertaking, but hearing the children reminisce about that experience makes it all worthwhile.

    Favourite Shakespearean Character:

    Hermia – because though she be little, she is fierce.  She isn’t afraid to speak her mind or fight for what she believes in.

    Why should schools take part in SSF?

    The excitement it generates in both children and staff, it starts them on a journey to loving Shakespeare.  It gives the children confidence and a shared experience that brings them together early in the year and makes them believe in themselves as a group.

     

  • Phil Branch

    Teacher Ambassador

    Wavell School

    Background

    With a philosophy of ‘let’s do it!’, Phil’s career in education has seen him ‘tour’ Wavell School performances to Germany, Greece and Japan. He’s worked as a Theatre in Education director and as a choreographer. Now he wants to help broaden the appeal of the Bard through the brilliant concept of SSF which gets students out from behind their desks to perform Shakespeare’s plays. Using his philosophy, Phil aims to make Shakespeare accessible to everyone by creating exciting and entertaining performances. He produces 2 SSF performances a year.

    Which Shakespearean character would you be?

    Prospero – because like the Bard, he brought magic to the stage.

    Why should schools take part in SSF?

    There are the obvious advantages SSF gives students and staff already listed on the website, but what makes it special for Phil and his students? The ‘buzz’ it gives Wavell, from the moment we have the initial meeting to the final performance in school at the end of January.

    To see the development of camaraderie amongst ‘The Wavell Company of Actors’ and the status they gain from the school population – even those not regarded as the ‘cool kids’.

    The entry fee does seem like a lot of money, but it is worth every penny! There are endless resources to teach and direct the plays on offer. The best CPD day’s training that offers exercises and techniques you can take straight into the classroom. (In a nutshell – CPD that actually gives you tools ready to use with the students!)

    For the students, there’s the workshop with a theatre professional. The rehearsal/performance in a professional theatre. Where else can you get this much value for yourself and your students?

    Then there’s the parental involvement. Watching their children perform has a massive impact on parents.  ‘Pride’ and ‘Joy’ are words associated with parental feedback. But you know SSF are doing something special when parents write in with comments like:-

    ‘I can be a bit miserable and I cannot recall the last time I laughed out loud before your performance last night.’

    ‘My daughter started Yr7 and her anxiety became so bad we were travelling to a counsellor in Basingstoke every week. A year later we travelled the same route, but to watch her SSF performance looking happy, confident and with her sparkle back. THANKYOU!’

    ‘I have never enjoyed Shakespeare, having been force fed ‘Henry V’ at school, I think that put me off for life. The performance of your play last night changed that and I feel suitably inspired to find out more about his works.’

    SSF students regularly outperform other students in GCSE Drama and English.

    There are no boundaries so let’s get out there and give these amazing stories to a new audience!

  • Hannah Brown

    Teacher Ambassador

    Sacred Heart High School

    Background:

    I am currently the Head of Drama at Sacred Heart High School where I have taught since moving to London from Australia where I was the Education Projects Officer for the Sydney Theatre Company. 2017 was my first experience of the amazing SSF, having been involved in a similar Australian festival for many years. I’m a big believer that extra-curricular opportunities like SSF provide one of the most beneficial and memorable experiences for students in their school lives. Working hard as an ensemble to bring the often daunting concept of Shakespeare to life in a bite-sized 30 minute performance for an audience makes students see they are capable of more than they ever imagined. For many students, this type of embodied learning is how they learn best which makes the festival even more important.

    Which character would you play in a Shakespeare production and why?

    Helena from A Midsummer Night’s Dream – her witty banter and insults towards Hermia will forever make audiences laugh. Or perhaps Cordelia from King Lear as who doesn’t admire her virtue and loyalty? But then of course there’s Lady Anne from Richard III – she married her husband’s brother (and murderer!) after he successfully wooed her at her dead husband’s graveside. Now that’s game!

    Alas, too many to choose from!

    Why would you recommend SSF to a colleague or another school?

    The most impressive element of the festival for me is SSF’s commitment to both the growth of the teacher and their students. The CPD provided is not only helpful for directing the show, but links to the curriculum and broader teaching pedagogy.

     

  • Richard Burbage

    Teacher Ambassador

    Paddock School

    Background:

    I’ve been teaching pupils with severe learning difficulties and autism for 25 years and have taught all age ranges and abilities in this time. For my entire teaching career I have worked in special schools in London.

    At the moment I teach a class of secondary age pupils with more complex and more challenging needs. However before this I was, for nearly 10 years, drama and ICT coordinator at my current school. It was in this role that I first came into contact with the Shakespeare Schools Festival. This will be my 10th year involved with the Festival and in this time I’ve written and directed a wide variety of simplified versions of Shakespeare’s famous plays. Free copies of these versions as well as other guidance to help teachers can be found at my shop on the TES resources website! https://www.tes.com/teaching-resources/shop/Ricardo65  

    Favourite Shakespearean character:

    In my past I did do some amateur dramatics and I played the part of Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night. Since the character needed to be tall and rather gangly, it appeared to suit me perfectly! Although it was a small role I took part in a lot of comic moments which were great fun to do.

    Why should schools take part in SSF?

    These plays can show our students’ ability not disability. The whole ethos of the Festival stresses achievement not failure in performance. As a consequence, our students have thrived on a stage where they must develop an ability to work as a team, communicate with one another as well as the audience and, above all, to believe that they can achieve something as special as any other young person taking part in the Festival.

    There is no doubt that the Festival experience is a unique and memorable one for every pupil who takes part. It has raised the profile of the school enormously and through our performances we have highlighted to a wider audience the talent and ability of young people, who often may be defined by wider society in terms of what they cannot do, instead of the amazing things that they are capable of.

    However, I feel the final word should not come from me but from one of our parents who had just watched her son perform at the Festival. I had asked her and other parents of cast members to fill in a feedback form. Her words perhaps best sum up the incredible impact that taking part in this amazing event can have for our pupils.

    “We were blown away by Macbeth. It is just amazing that Matthew had this unique opportunity to express himself on stage. It was just wonderful to see his confidence and enthusiasm in front of an audience. Matthew has grown so much from every aspect of being involved in this wonderful play. Thank you with all my heart. Jo”

     

  • Jonathan Buxton

    Teacher Ambassador

    Milton Hall Primary School

    Biography:

    I have had the pleasure of being a drama teacher for many years now and I can honestly say that directing for Shakespeare Schools Foundation has been the highlight of my career. I fell in love with the Bard's work at the age of 16 and my passion only furthered at Drama School and then beyond, playing some of Shakespeare's iconic roles.

    When I ascended to the role of Head of Drama at my current school I was insistent that Shakespeare's tales must be taught regularly. In my opinion his plays hold up the sky and would undoubtedly enhance the students' lives and education.

    I had seen a production of Henry V at the Barbican and, as destiny would have it, the Foundation phoned me the following day asking if we would be interested. I signed us up immediately and have never looked back.

    Why would I recommend SSF to another school or colleague?

    I have witnessed many young Shakespeareans bloom into actors of Olivier's caliber. Hearing them speaking Shakespeare's text so confidently and eloquently is a joy to behold and would encourage any teacher to get involved. It honestly is an unparalleled delight.

    Favourite Shakespeare Character: 

    A vexing question indeed! I would have to say Claudius from Hamlet. Everybody loves a villain!

  • Zoe Byrne

    Teacher Ambassador

    Background:

    In 2014, I was invited to a meeting at another local school to find out about the Shakespeare Schools Festival. I went along, not knowing quite what to expect, and found I was the only person there. The Teacher Director at that school (Stuart, who now works for the foundation) decided that as it was just me and him, he would ditch the presentation and talk to me about his experiences. He was so enthusiastic and when he showed me a clip of his amazing cast performing, I knew I had to get involved. That year, I took on The Tempest with a lot of support and very little idea of what I was doing. The SSF staff were amazing and I learnt so much on the training that I always went back in to school with a renewed sense of purpose and confidence. Granted that didn’t last long and there were moments when I wondered what I had got myself in to but when the curtain closed on the night of the performance, I knew I was hooked.
    Since then, I have directed Romeo and Juliet, Richard III and most recently, I handed the baton to a younger member of staff and we co directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I have loved my experiences with SSF so far and hope to have many more.

    Favourite Shakespearean character

    Because of our performance, Richard III will always hold a special place in my heart. He’s such a great baddie.

    Why should schools take part in SSF?

    The feeling you get when the children you have directed are up on that stage speaking Shakespearean lines many adults would struggle with is something you will treasure forever. I have seen so many children develop confidence and understanding of each other through the process and I now regularly have children who have taken part in the festival or watched our performance telling me that they can’t wait to study Shakespeare at secondary school. What a great legacy to be part of.

  • Tim Clarke

    Teacher Ambassador

    St John’s College School, Cambridge

    Why did you want to become a teacher?

    I didn't know I wanted to be a Drama teacher until I was asked to run an after school Drama club in a school in West London. I had just left Drama school so was an actor at the time, running a fringe theatre company - and I must say that from my first session (which I  have recreated for pupils over the last 25 years!) I was hooked. I knew very quickly that I had discovered my true vocation. I have never stopped teaching Drama and producing plays and musicals. I love all aspects of the subject; running workshops, exploring themes in class, generating a sense of fun, casting, staging, directing etc. I have worked with children in films, TV, theatre and above all in schools, which I like the best of all – where you can really try and make a difference to children's lives. I have been a full time Drama teacher in my current school for the last 14 years.

    Tell us a bit about your approach to drama in the classroom

    I believe that playing is at the core of teaching this subject. Lessons and rehearsals must be allowed to become a bit bonkers as I think this opens up the children's imaginations. Laughter is a very good sign in a rehearsal, even in a very serious play.

    I ask children, from a very early age, to ‘say yes’ to the ideas of others. I try to model this behaviour for them as much as I can. I have always used all the imaginations in the classroom/rehearsal and not just my own! Some SSF practitioners call this being a magpie!

    I believe that the subject of Drama should have a performance aspect – if possible every year, for every child in the school. I never give up on any child having a go and gaining from the experience. I try and champion the quieter children who usually have better listening skills that the loud ones. I see Drama as a non-competitive subject and always consider casting very carefully. I see myself as a very inclusive teacher who tries to make everyone feel special.

    What do you love about Shakespeare Schools Festival?

    I LOVE being involved in the SSF because it in an all-inclusive Festival that wants to give everyone ago. It breaks down barriers between children, teachers and schools and EVERYONE involved in working for the Festival is never-endingly enthusiastic, positive and helpful. I also think the brilliantly adapted scripts make being in the Festival very appealing for students, teacher and the audience. I love learning new ways of teaching the subject and refreshing ideas on core themes.

    Favourite Shakespeare play?

    The Tempest is my favourite play. I am always moved by this tale of redemption and forgiveness. It is peopled by monstrous humans and a lyrical monster (Caliban is my favourite Shakespearean character). I think the low comedy characters in the play have great depth – and on many levels are not funny at all – a drunk might be amusing to start but can also turn violent. I love the study of status and power and money and what it does to people who worship it. I see Prospero’s power and magic having been born out of hatred and bitterness and this spiral of pain is the island in his head that he is trapped on. He realizes that he must forgive his usurpers to be able to live the remainder of his days in a happy way.  A huge message for all of us.

  • Richard Collis

    Teacher Ambassador

    Bristol Free School

    Background:

    Richard has been involved with SSF for 7 years, through directing student productions in London and Bristol, as well as being part of the steering group and assisting at fund/profile-raising events. He is a huge advocate of the festival and the work it does with young people, and is very proud to volunteer to help out where he can!

    Favourite Shakespearean character:

    Titus Andronicus - I would like to think of myself as a heroic and vengeful Titus..

    Why should schools take part in SSF?

    The reasons for being involved with SSF are numerous - from the academic progress to the dramatic creativity, the real theatre opportunity to the self fulfilment... Ultimately it's bloody good fun!"

  • Michelle Ejueyitchie

    Teacher Ambassador

    Bensham Manor School

    Why did you want to become a teacher?

    I wanted to share knowledge and see people progress and reach their potential.

    Tell us a bit about your approach to drama in the classroom.

    As I work in SEN I like to get to know my pupils and what I feel they will respond to each year might be structured differently. I like to use an approach that will give the pupils the building blocks to creativity. I use movement, mime, sound, even create worlds from unexpected props and materials to encourage them to broaden their imaginative skills. The pupils select themes and develop acting techniques , how to support each other and offer feedback and give encouragement framed in a positive way. As I teach the whole school Drama my style of delivery will alter. Mainly it is according to what they can access. All groups learn how to collaborate and create pieces for performance.

    What do you love about Shakespeare Schools Festival?

    I love the way it is open for absolutely every type of school. Seeing other schools interpret Shakespeare is wonderful. All the practitioners instill such confidence in the kids and us teachers.

    What is your favourite Shakespeare play?

    I love King Lear. I studied it at A level and for my English Literature degree. It was a dream come true seeing our kids perform it.

  • Catherine Fitzsimons

    Teacher Ambassador

    Talbot Specialist School

    YOU are that stuff on which dreams are made!

    I’m writing this as an enthusiastic practitioner, beneficiary and supporter of Shakespeare Schools Festival. I want to not only tell you what 7 years with SSF has done for my students but also to exhort you to participate in this life-enhancing experience.

    I teach at Talbot Specialist School, where pupils have a range of learning difficulties. Like you, we’re always looking for ways to enrich our curriculum and so the chance to appear on the professional stage, performing [abridged] Shakespeare after the benefit of weeks of wonderful teacher and student workshops, numerous website resources, reassuring and motivational emails from SSF Coordinators, advice from professional Directors, all enhanced by professional lighting and sound seemed an opportunity not to miss!

    This year will be our 8th Season with SSF. I have learned so many new skills as Teacher-Director but the students and staff have learned [and taught me] even more. Choosing a play, selecting the cast, persuading/motivating other staff to participate, rehearsing frequently, meeting deadlines, sorting costume and props, learning lines, liaising with  SSF, meeting other teacher/directors, attending workshops, advertising the performance, calming nerves and sharing in the delight of parents  are all part of the thrill of finally treading the boards!

    Perhaps the most thrilling achievement of all is that the pupils themselves now quote Shakespeare with the ease they quote music lyrics. We adapt the settings of the plays to suit their enthusiasms, so in Romeo and Juliet the Capulets and Montagues became Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday and Julius Caesar was set in a circus where deranged clowns murdered the Ringmaster Caesar – you are free to let your imagination run wild!!!

    SSF also offers numerous other opportunities for students. They can work as technical Crew, plotting lighting and sound in the theatre in co-operation with a professional theatre technician or can become involved via the SSF websites in blogging or talking to other schools about their rehearsal process. New friends are made when students meet with other schools during rehearsals and pre-show workshops.

    Working in a special school means we are often excluded from mainstream opportunities. SSF work tirelessly to celebrate and support the work of special schools in the Festival, providing extra Workshops aimed at producing and directing your play with those extra adaptations necessary to make Shakespeare accessible to our students. There’s also the opportunity to network with teachers from other special schools who come brimming with practical ideas. But Performances and Cast Workshops are fully integrated giving tremendous teaching and learning opportunities for everyone involved. Ofsted were impressed by our SSF work too, decreeing Talbot’s Creative Arts work as ‘exceptional’ during our last inspection!

    I hope I’ve given you an idea of how enriching an experience, for both students and staff, participating in Shakespeare Schools Festival is. In my new and exciting role as an SSF Ambassador I would also be delighted to support you should you wish to put your students’ names up in lights! I am happy to offer advice on any aspect of the page to stage process.

  • Rebecca Glenny

    Teacher Ambassador

    Warminster Prep School

    Background:

    Rebecca is Year 6 Teacher and Head of Maths at Warminster Prep School.  She has always been passionate about Drama and is a strong believer in its ability to develop confidence, cooperation, communication and creativity.  The 2016 festival was her first experience of working with SSF and the organisation and opportunities it gave her class exceeded her expectations.  The personal journeys of growth made by each member of the class culminating in a performance on a professional stage to a packed theatre was a joy to behold but equally important were the skills and confidence she took away from the experience.

    Favourite Shakespearean character:

    Beatrice – I love her direct and witty way with words.

    Why should schools take part in SSF?

    The passionate and expert team at SSF provide teachers and pupils with a professional experience that inspires creativity and imparts skills, confidence and a love of Shakespeare that will last a life time.  

  • Jack Hoskins

    Teacher Ambassador

    Gordonstoun School

    Why did you want to become a teacher?

    I first became a teacher with the simple aim of sharing my own love of Drama and Theatre with the next generation. I’ve since realised just how much our students gain from their time in studying drama in school – confidence, self-belief, co-operation, communication, creativity. Drama and the creative subjects are such an important part of our children’s schooling and I hope that these subjects continue to be recognised as our school curriculum develops in the future.

    A bit about your approach to drama in the classroom?

    Drama is a practical subject and whilst teaching in the classroom is necessary at times, the lessons I lead remain as practical as possible. Learning through experience aids retention of information and the more we experience the more we learn. What is so great about drama in schools is that as we teach the skills and techniques of our subject – improvisation, stage craft, the use of gesture and body language, voice and movement skills, we can also add secondary learning to our lessons. The Battle of the Somme, the fight against poaching in Kenya, the devastating effects of deforestation in South America, visiting the Great Exhibition of 1851 - lessons become memories for the students, a part of their lives as the learning is embedded. Lessons can come alive through drama, allowing moments of wonder for our students as they live through these learning experiences.

    So my approach to drama is to allow the students to create their own memories, to co-operate with one another, to be creative and inventive, to be sensitive to one another’s thoughts and ideas and to develop the communication skills that will help them to prosper throughout their entire lives.

    What do you love about the SSF?

    What I love about the Shakespeare Schools Festival is that it is such a thrilling way for so many children and young people to be introduced to the incredible language and stories of Shakespeare for the first time. The SSF makes Shakespeare accessible and exciting, it helps youngsters to appreciate that the language is not dense and impenetrable but fascinating, poetic, funny and often rather rude! The SSF allows young people to learn that the themes and ideas of Shakespeare’s stories are eternal.

    I’m astonished every year by the myriad of inventive ways that the directors and (often very young) casts bring Shakespeare’s works to life with the support of the SSF and I love attending these diverse productions and sharing our own work with the other schools and groups.

    What is your favourite Shakespeare play?

    Well this is such a difficult question! I’m a big fan of sword fights, I love the Comedies yet there’s always something satisfying about making the audience shed a tear. I’m always happy when I’m directing something dark and mysterious; there’s nothing like a family at war or friends turning against each other when you’re looking for tension. I think when I really take stock and reflect on every one of these wonderful plays, my very favourite is The Tempest. Magic and mystery, monsters and spirits, comedy and tension, a romantic love story and the most wonderfully rounded characters. This is Shakespeare at the height of his powers as he weaves this complex story to its happy ending. What’s not to love?

  • Eileen Hughes

    Teacher Ambassador

    Background:

    I moved to Pembrokeshire in 2001 to work at Portfield Special School. I have been teaching pupils across a wide range of ages and abilities within special education for longer than I will admit to (almost 40yrs). I tried to take early retirement a few years ago but the SSF bug had got me so I carried on in school one day a week to enable the students and myself to work on drama. Key Stage 4 and 5 take part. I haven't had any formal training for teaching drama, SSF workshops are great, what I do have is a passion for putting on a show! It gives our students an opportunity like no other and on an equal footing to other pupils. My chance to be a Teacher Director came after a chance remark from our deputy head about a meeting with SSF. I just said what an amazing opportunity and was promptly asked if I would take it on, note to self keep quiet next time. Tee hee! I have now directed for 8 years and still love it, Portfield students are wonderful what more can I say.

    Favourite Shakespeare Character

    Has to to be one of the witches from Macbeth. The baddie is always the most fun to play and is far removed from my own personality, I hope! They bear quite a lot of responsibility for what happens and there is plenty of scope for interpretation in this role. Oh, minor detail, Macbeth is my favourite play.

    Why should schools take part in SSF?

    To any school thinking about taking part I would say you have to give it a go! Yes, it is hard work, it can be daunting first time round and it takes time BUT your pupils will love it! The process is fascinating from the Teacher Director workshops to the company workshops, rehearsals and performance day. All very well and brilliantly supported by the SSF team, there when you need them, also colleagues in the Green room. For pupils, staff and parents the feeling of pride in the achievement of creating your own piece of Shakespeare is beyond words. Everyone can contribute to ideas and so much develops over the weeks of rehearsal. Our students always ask "What's Next"?  It is a true labour of love!

  • Jenny Mcdonald

    Teacher Ambassador

    Ashcroft High School

    Background:

    Jenny is a Drama Teacher who has always had a love of Shakespeare, but it wasn't until she started in her current post that she got the opportunity to direct some of the Bard's work. Jenny loves trying to use modern theatre techniques to bring Shakespeare to life for the students she is working with, all of the SSF performances she has directed have involved some sort of physical theatre. Jenny believes that SSF is a fantastic platform for students to foster a love of Shakespeare as well as giving them the opportunity to perform in a professional theatre.

    Favourite Shakespearean character:

    Lady Macbeth.

  • Jane Moss-Blundell

    Teacher Ambassador

    Harrogate High School

    Background:

    After a career which has involved working in corporate public relations in various parts of the country and also helping to manage one of the top five supermarkets in the country, I changed direction some fourteen years ago and moved into teaching.  I am Head of English at Harrogate High School and I am absolutely delighted to be working with our Performing Arts Department to renew our involvement with the Shakespeare Schools Festival in 2017.  It was a real privilege to be asked to become a Teacher Ambassador earlier this year and I look forward to spreading the word about all the benefits the Festival has to offer.

    Shakespearean character:

    Puck - to get a glimpse into the world of the fairies and to have (but not necessarily use) the wherewithal to cause some mischief!

    Why should schools take part in SSF?

    I would urge all schools, both primary and secondary, to become involved in the Festival.  There is wonderful support available at every stage from SSF and it is such a great opportunity to give students the chance to perform a play of choice in a theatre in front of a live and enthusiastic audience.  It fosters confidence and teamwork and brings together students from different schools and different locations.  It is great in terms of building a sense of community and the benefits just keep on and one coming even after the Festival has been and gone - until the next year, of course!

  • Rebecca Newton

    Teacher Ambassador

    Don Valley Academy

    Biography:

    I have been lucky enough to enjoy the experience of seeing pupils flourish whilst taking part in SSF since I was a newly qualified teacher in September 2009. I watched my then Head of Department direct a cast of thirty eager (but slightly unruly) boys and was in awe of how they seemed instantly captivated by the text of Henry V and truly lost themselves in their given roles.
    As I progressed through my career I went on to co-direct productions and in more recent years have directed on my own. Although the thought of directing Shakespeare can be daunting, the support you receive from the SSF team is very thorough and you never feel like you are 'on your own'. I have personally enjoyed the challenge of creating my own interpretation of the classic texts and have relished the opportunity of seeing my vision being brought to life by my students. Once I have finished a production I am always thinking about which one I could do next and which Shakespearean text would be most exciting and beneficial for my students. SSF has most definitely reignited my passion for Shakespeare and I know that this has been passed onto the students and allowed them to see the relevance of his words today.

    Favourite Shakespeare character?

    I cannot possibly name my favourite Shakespeare character as there are too many! I love the variety the great Bard offers us- the complexities and layers that can be discovered in characters like the grieving Hamlet or villainous Richard III and the fun and joy that others can bring to a scene like Sir Andrew Augecheek and Bottom.

    Why would I recommend SSF to another school or colleague?

    I would thoroughly recommend taking part in SSF! Seeing the impact of the festival on the students every year is what makes me want to continue to be part of it. The pride and fulfilment they gain from the whole process is immense. Strong and lasting bonds are always formed amongst the cast during the rehearsal stages, which is wonderful to see and truly fantastic when older pupils become mentors for the younger ones. In addition, the joy of witnessing the buzz and excitement gained from performing on the professional stage is just one of the remarkable privileges you receive as a Teacher-Director. Moreover, when you hear strangers in the audience praising your students for their incredible professionalism it clearly demonstrates the positive impact it has on your pupils and also in promoting the arts and culture at your school.

    Every year my students have been congratulated on their talent by the SSF team and I know this has had a lasting effect on them. Our school is based in a socially deprived area in South Yorkshire and so to be recognised as talented and professional performers it shows that they are successfully overcoming these barriers. We are proud to be flying the flag high for the Performing Arts and celebrate the positive impact it has had on the school community.
    I would highly recommend any school thinking about taking part in the festival and know that once you have seen the difference it can make, you will be signing up year after year.
  • Jill Strath

    Teacher Ambassador

    Priestlands School

    Background:

    Teaching Drama at Priestlands in the beautiful New Forest, the most significant decision I have made as a teacher was the day, twelve years ago, that I leapt into the exciting, inspiring world of SSF and began the most exhilarating journey together with my cast. 360 Priestlands pupils have now shared the stage with over 900 other phenomenal, young performers.

    Favourite Shakespearean character:

    My number one character has to be Kate Minola, Taming of The Shrew, as she provoked such fierce, relevant debate and passionate performances from our pupils.

    Why should schools take part in SSF?

    The elation and genuine sense of having achieved something momentous together is incredibly powerful and it’s impact far reaching. In the world of education where the focus is on raising standards, SSF packs a serious punch!

  • Mark Rimmer

    Teacher Ambassador

    Background:

    I was thrust into the position of Teacher-Director when a colleague suddenly left, and to say I was apprehensive with the project as an NQT would be an understatement! However, from the moment I started on the first production, I haven’t looked back since and the Shakespeare production is now a real highlight of the year for me.

    I am currently working on my fourth production (The Tempest) having had great experiences with Romeo & Juliet, Twelfth Night¸ and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and definitely feel much more confident with every project.  Whether it’s the initial drama skills and character development, scheming up the lighting and sound cues, or the moment the curtain goes up on the night of the performance, there’s an unmistakeable buzz for me when working with the children on the production, and the pride the children get from taking part is fantastic to see.

    Favourite Shakespearean character:

     Sir Toby Belch from Twelfth Night, because he is such a free spirit and brought such animation to many scenes in that play with his cheeky, irreverent sense of humour. I also remember him being brought to life so well by the actor who played him in our production.

    Why should schools take part in SSF?

    •  A great way to get to know many of your new class/year group
    •  Has built up my confidence inside the classroom as well as boosting the children’s confidence and maturity
    •  Build up your profile across the whole school
    •  Linking our Topic and English to the production means the children are able to really engage with it a lot more, and feel a great deal of ownership, therefore empathising with their characters and others
    • Is so much fun both at the SSF workshops and working in a more informal way with the children outside of lessons
    • Build up professional links with other professional bodies and teachers at participating schools; we shared rehearsal time with a nearby partner school to give the children more experience of performing in front of an audience.
  • Julie Pirie

    Teacher Ambassador

    Wallace High School

    Background:

    My name is Julie Pirie and I am Acting Head of English at Wallace High School in Stirling. I have been teaching at Wallace High for over 13 years. Although we do not have a Drama department in our school, I try to give our pupils as much experience of Drama as possible, as I feel it's invaluable. I direct and produce our yearly school show, which is a full scale production and brings so much to our school community, as does the Shakespeare Schools Festival, which we are currently in our tenth year of participating in. I direct our Shakespeare performance and also use it as a platform for our pupils to achieve their Bronze and Silver Arts Award.

    Favourite Shakespeare character?

    My favourite Shakespeare character is probably Bottom from "A Midsummer Night's Dream." I just love his complete lack of self awareness and he is simply hilarious. The scene in which he sings, entirely unaware of his new ass's head, never fails to make me laugh out loud.

    Why should schools take part in SSF?

    Schools MUST get involved in SSF if the opportunity presents itself. We at Wallace love it, hence our involvement for the last ten years. Our pupils get so much out of the experience: confidence, fun, and friendship. I have seen pupils start helping with make up one year, and taking on lead roles by the end of their education. It's infectious. Our pupils come back year after year and their excitement for the experience and Shakespeare is incredible. We have some wonderful memories from all of our shows and I am very proud of what we have achieved with SSF over the years.

  • Elin Williams

    Teacher Ambassador

    Background

    I’m currently an English Teacher in a Welsh medium school in the Swansea valleys. I’m a graduate from Cardiff University with a BA in English Literature and like most Lit graduates, Shakespeare’s my thing! I’ve always loved the comedies more than anything, so the past two festivals I’ve taken part in have been with comedy plays: a 1920’s Twelfth Night and a 1980’s Much Ado. I’m a big believer that we should always challenge young people and I think a comedy play can offer plenty of opportunities to do this. I’ve also discovered that by performing comedies, pupils’ pre-conceptions of Shakespeare have been challenged and they become more confident in dealing with texts. SSF has not only developed me as a teacher, it’s also inspired our pupils. Both times we’ve finished a production, both pupils and staff ask ‘what’s next?’ I’m so excited to become a Teacher Ambassador and spread the joy of this phenomenal festival!

    Which character would you play in a Shakespeare production? 

    When I was in University I played mostly comic roles in Shakespeare because of my funny Welsh accent! I am a lover of the comedy so I’d probably have a go at most comic roles, even the male ones. I would argue that playing a character like Sir Toby Belch, Fluellen or Dogberry can sometimes be more challenging than the more dramatic roles; making the audience laugh is much more exciting than making them cry in my opinion!

    If I was to choose my ultimate role however, as much as I’d like to say I’m more suited to the pretty damsel in distress types, that’s unfortunately not the case. I’m more of a Beatrice or Katherine; feisty and outspoken! I love the powerful female. Some of Beatrice’s lines are amongst the wittiest lines Shakespeare ever wrote. Her fiery relationship with Benedick is so compelling for an audience to watch, but her inherent lack of power as a female also makes her quite vulnerable. She’s the perfect character.

    Why would you recommend SSF to a colleague or another school? 

    Taking part in SSF is genuinely one of the best things I’ve done in my career. As an English teacher and lover of literature, Shakespeare comes as part of the package, but being able to stage a production with a cast of young people is so rewarding I can hardly put it into words. It sounds ridiculous to say, but the pupils gain so much from performing Shakespeare, their confidence is almost tangible. Being able to decipher and perform Shakespeare develops so many skills for them and watching them bring the play to life on performance day makes you almost burst with pride. If you are truly passionate about providing extra-curricular activities that pupils will remember forever, SSF is definitely for you. It is daunting and exhausting, but trust me, once you’ve done it once, you’ll want to do it every year.

97%
of teachers told us they developed strong leadership skills

We train and support teachers from primary, secondary and special schools to work actively and ambitiously with Shakespeare.

About our impact
95%
of special school teachers saw an increase in their students' resilience

We believe Shakespeare is for everyone. Every year children from very different backgrounds come together to perform on the same stage.

About our impact
79%
of special school teachers saw an increase in their students' confidence

We believe Shakespeare is for everyone. Every year children from very different backgrounds come together to perform on the same stage.

About our impact
87%
of teachers would strongly recommend the Festival to a colleague

We train and support teachers from primary, secondary and special schools to work actively and ambitiously with Shakespeare.

About our impact
As a result of the Festival process,
97%
of teachers are confident working with Shakespeare

We train and support teachers from primary, secondary and special schools to work actively and ambitiously with Shakespeare.

About our impact
As a result of taking part in the Festival,
97%
of teachers think they will stay in teaching for longer than 5 years

Every year we help thousands of young people from across the UK become better at teamwork, more confident and more ambitious.

About our impact
98%
of teachers developed a strong relationship with their students through the Festival process

Every year we help thousands of young people from across the UK become better at teamwork, more confident and more ambitious.

About our impact
97%
of teachers told us their students were better able to express themselves

With us, young people change their attitude to learning; we instil curiosity, empathy and pride.

About our impact
86%
of teachers reported that their students' academic attainment improved

We work to promote educational attainment - especially in literacy, literature and the performing arts.

About our impact
93%
of teachers told us the Festival improved their teaching

We work to promote educational attainment - especially in literacy, literature and the performing arts.

About our impact
86%
of teachers said that their students' behaviour improved as a result of the Festival

We work to promote educational attainment - especially in literacy, literature and the performing arts.

About our impact
95%
of teachers stated that students were more enthusiastic about learning

We work to promote educational attainment - especially in literacy, literature and the performing arts.

About our impact
86%
of teachers reported that attainment in English improved

We work to promote educational attainment - especially in literacy, literature and the performing arts.

About our impact
10%
of participants have English as an additional language

We have used the power of Shakespeare to improve the life chances of thousands of the most disadvantaged young people in the UK and with children with special educational needs.

About our impact
11%
of participants have a statement of educational needs

We have used the power of Shakespeare to improve the life chances of thousands of the most disadvantaged young people in the UK and with children with special educational needs.

About our impact
12%
of participants are eligible for free school meals

We have used the power of Shakespeare to improve the life chances of thousands of the most disadvantaged young people in the UK and with children with special educational needs.

About our impact
27%
of participants are minority ethnic

We have used the power of Shakespeare to improve the life chances of thousands of the most disadvantaged young people in the UK and with children with special educational needs.

About our impact
More than
1,000
schools participate in the Festival

We work nationwide - from Aberdeen to Aberdare, Carlisle to Clacton.

About our impact
Our young people will perform in front of
65,000
people nationwide

At our core is our Festival - the world’s largest youth drama festival.

About our impact
In 2018 we will work with up to
30,000
young people

At our core is our Festival - the world’s largest youth drama festival.

About our impact
96%
of teachers said that their students were resilient as a result of the Festival

With us, young people change their attitude to learning; we instill curiosity, empathy and pride.

About our impact
95%
of teachers reported that their students were better able to empathise with each other

With us, young people change their attitude to learning; we instill curiosity, empathy and pride.

About our impact
99%
of teachers said that their students increased in confidence

Every year we help thousands of young people from across the UK become better at teamwork, more confident and more ambitious.

About our impact
97%
of teachers agreed that their students were better at working together as a team

Every year we help thousands of young people from across the UK become better at teamwork, more confident and more ambitious.

About our impact
94%
of students are more likely to seek out new opportunities

With us, young people change their attitude to learning; we instill curiosity, empathy and pride.

About our impact
More than
250,000
young people have taken part in the Festival

At our core is our Festival - the world’s largest youth drama festival.

About our impact

SSF is a cultural education charity that exists to instil curiosity and empathy, aspiration and self-esteem, literacy and teamwork - giving young people the confidence to see that all the world is their stage.

Learn more about us