Four plays in four days might sound like hard work and, I’m not going to lie, it was! But for 306 children it was a play in a half day to remember. Of the four days, one was spent in Yorkshire and three in London. Of the four plays, three were comedies and one was a tragedy.
We began with ‘The Tempest’ in Yorkshire – in two primary schools in fact, Sledmere and Wetwang Federation – and what a brilliant day that was. Two rural primary schools in East Yorkshire with mixed classes and thirty-six funny, bright, courageous young pupils in Years 4, 5 & 6. One of the greatest pleasures for FINDING THE WILL is being able to work in small schools where the children deserve no less than those in large primary schools, but the funds to enable this are often lacking. It is a credit therefore to the foresight of the teachers in these tiny establishments to see the benefits to the children, to think outside the box and make the investment. Fifteen children in Wetwang set sail on the ‘Good Ship Deep Blue’ and later that day twenty one children in Sledmere raised the anchor of the ‘Good Ship Fearless Dragon’, and all thirty-six children joined me on a voyage of discovery to Prospero’s Island and, ultimately, forgiveness. As we so often say, it’s not just about the Shakespeare though. Yes, they now know the story of the play but they’ve also interacted with a trusted stranger (Year 6 will be doing a lot of that when they move into Year 7), they’ve exercised the creative side of their brains, grown in confidence and now (hopefully) will be producing some cracking work off the back of the Interactive Workshop. It was a five hundred mile round trip for me but so worthwhile -a hugely enjoyable day. Hats off to the children and, in particular, Mrs Wood for making it happen.
In stark contrast our next stop was a three form entry urban primary school in SW London, Hampton Junior School to be exact. We were last here in 2017 and so it was lovely to get the call to pay a return visit two years later. Over the course of three days we worked with Years 5, 4 & 3 on ‘Hamlet’, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘Twelfth Night’ respectively. So we went from three year groups in one class in Yorkshire to three classes in one year group in London. But whether it was down to Shakespeare or FINDING THE WILL, the magic was just as strong in both! Again there were some wonderful examples of children just getting sucked into the story in all three year groups and plays, but we feel we must make special mention of Year 3 who got to grips with ‘Twelfth Night’. These 7&8 year olds seemed to be fearless and really got stuck into the complicated plot, following every twist and turn and impressing us hugely with their reading and performing skills and their maturity. After all it’s not easy to woo a girl you think is a boy when you’re only 8! Many thanks to Mrs Hughes for organising the three days. Below are some photos courtesy of Hampton Junior’s Facebook page:
School funding and resulting cuts have been in the news this week as I’m sure you will have seen and heard. I’m not here to make political points but really, when you hear of headteachers forced to cut support teachers and other vital staff, having to increase class sizes, personally cleaning the toilets and even being forced to close on Friday lunchtime in order to save money, you have to wonder what on earth is going on. It also makes me extremely proud of all the schools that FINDING THE WILL has had the privilege to work in over the last twelve years. We know how stretched you are in terms of funds and the fact that you choose to allocate some of them to projects with us is extremely gratifying. When the will is there (excuse the pun) but the money isn’t, we feel your frustration – I refer you to a blog I wrote back in September last year with a direct appeal to the Secretary of State for Education @DamianHinds. What FINDING THE WILL offers should not be a luxury, it should be part of the literacy curriculum, with life skills (such as teamwork, confidence-building, engaging, sharing, focus and listening, not always getting what you want) thrown in. To all those schools who still believe in us and the value we bring to the children, and who continue to support us, a heartfelt thank you.
Two ‘Dreamy’ weeks coming up next in London and Swindon……..I’ll report back on the donkeys in the city and the shire at the end of the month! Till then , Adieu, Adieu, Adieu.