A study of the Learning Performance Network, an education programme of the Royal Shakespeare Company

Author: Pat Thomson, Christine Hall, Deborah Thomas, Ken Jones and Anton Franks

Institution: University of Nottingham, Goldsmiths College and the Institute of Education, University of London.

Full reference: Thomson, P., Hall, C., Thomas, D., Jones, K. and Franks, A. (2010) A study of the Learning Performance Network, an education programme of the Royal Shakespeare Company Newcastle: Creativity, Culture and Education

Summary of key findings

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)’s Learning Performance Network (LPN) provides opportunities for clusters of schools to work with the Education staff from the RSC and for lead teachers at hub schools to gain postgraduate certification accredited by the University of Warwick. CCE, through the Creative Partnerships programme, funded key elements of the RSC/Warwick work and was interested in further investigation of the apparent high degree of success in knowledge transfer between the Masters students and their teacher peers within their schools, as reported in an earlier evaluation (Neelands, J., Galloway, S. and Lindsay, G. (2009) ‘Stand up for Shakespeare. The Royal Shakepeare Company’s Learning and Performance Network’ Report to the Training and Development Agency for Schools. Warwick: CEDAR)

The study found that the LPN programme offers significant intellectual and practical resources to schools and teachers. Key teachers in core schools significantly changed their teaching practices not only in relation to the teaching of Shakespeare but also in relation to work with other texts and in the use of dramatic processes per se. The Postgraduate Certificate did offer a systematic opportunity for teachers to reflect on their learning and how this was to be incorporated into classroom programmes. The researchers observed a dilution effect in the spread of learning across some clusters but found this was avoided in sites where there was also strong support for LPN activity outside the cluster from combinations of local authority, other cultural organisations and higher education. The report offers some suggestions for strengthening the programme but concluded that the LPN model was both effective and scaleable to other arts forms and locations, providing the appropriate strong partnerships exist between the arts organisation and higher education.

Research Questions & Methodology

The research addresses the following questions:

1. What intellectual resources and repertoires of practice have been made available to key teachers through the Learning Performance Network?
2. How has this changed their practice with students?
3. How have key teachers worked with the LPN programme to spread these resources and practices to a cluster of neighbouring schools?
4. How have schools supported the work of LPN? What is the extent of their commitment, and how is this reflected in the resourcing of CPD?

The researchers visited four hub schools and associated cluster schools. They interviewed teachers and students, observed lessons, rehearsals and meetings and analysed documentation. In addition to school-based research, practitioner support was observed on a training weekend at Stratford-Upon-Avon, and at a current cohort hub school. Training support materials and assignments from the Postgraduate Certificate were examined and RSC and Warwick personnel were also interviewed.

Read the report.