A new national digital theatre programme for schools was launched this morning at Shenley Academy by Sir Lenny Henry.

Image Jack Southwold & Ian Long
Image Jack Southwold & Ian Long

The National Theatre’s On Demand in Schools aims to make theatre more accessible to students of all ages by making acclaimed curriculum-linked productions available, free of charge, to every school across the country.

At today’s launch of the Primary programme, Sir Lenny met pupils from Shenley Academy in Northfield who have been benefiting from the Secondary programme since it launched a year ago.

Ian Horgan, Assistant Principal at Shenley Academy said: “We have been using On Demand in Schools for the last year and in that time pupils and teachers have found it a brilliant resource. Flexibility in lesson planning is important for any school and the programme means teachers can study key scenes with students or show the full production over a number of lessons. As specialist software is not required to watch the plays and streams can be viewed on multiple devices, we are able to use the service across a number of subjects to support lessons in every year group.”

Sir Lenny Henry said: “The National Theatre was founded with a mission to educate as well as entertain and many of us working in the arts can remember an experience at school – a theatre visit, an inspiring teacher, meeting a professional artist – as the ignition to their career or enduring passion for the art form. If we can engage school children in the arts from an early age, the evidence tells us that they will have an interest in, and desire to, engage in the arts throughout their lifetime.”

Image: Johan Persson
Image: Johan Persson

The first primary age production, suitable for Key Stage 2, to be made available is Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic adventure Treasure Island. On Demand in Schools is intended to compliment trips to see live performances, enabling students to study plays day-to-day in their classroom. The plays are recorded in high definition in front of a live theatre audience by the National theatre’s award-winning NT Live team. Available exclusively to UK schools, comprehensive learning resources produced by teachers and leading artists support each play; teachers can show the full production or watch key scenes over a number of lessons.

Alice King-Farlow, Director of Learning at the NT, said: “On Demand in Schools Secondary has seen over a third of state schools across the UK sign up to the initiative in just one year. That success (and demand) has confirmed our belief that teachers and schools across the UK are passionate about giving young people access to inspirational theatre and embedding the arts as a vital part of the curriculum. We are thrilled to be launching On Demand in Schools Primary and offering children of all age ranges access to world-class theatre in a curriculum-linked, classroom setting.”

Shenley Academy students & staff with Sir Lenny Henry
Shenley Academy students & staff with Sir Lenny Henry

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