HUNDREDS of youngsters in York were treated to performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) as part of a bid to raise the playwright’s profile in schools across York, North and East Yorkshire.

Thespians including Paul Copley, star of This Life, Life on Mars and Downton Abbey, put on specially adapted productions of King Lear for pupils and staff at York High School in Acomb, with the audience consisting of children from primary schools in west York as well as York High Year Eights.

There were also special evening performances for the local community whch attracted about 200 people.

York High was selected by the RSC to be a hub school for the region as part of their Learning and Performance Network (LPN).

As The Press reported earlier this year, it is part of a three-year project to raise the profile of and engagement with Shakespeare in schools across York, North and East Yorkshire.

Head teacher David Ellis said it was a very prestigious venture and the school was selected following a rigorous application and selection process.

He said: “The project has involved performances of King Lear at York High as well as performances by pupils at the Theatre Royal in York and some lucky pupils will get to perform on the stage in Stratford.

“Three of our teachers will also be given the opportunity to train for the post-graduate certificate in the teaching of Shakespeare.”

Mr Ellis said the King Lear performances in school were a huge success.

He said: “It was a specially adapted shorter performance of the original aimed at youngsters aged 11 to 14. I am a scientist and I thought it was just stunning to watch and the kids really enjoyed it. It is a really amazing opportunity.”

The LPN programme was established in 2006 and is targeted towards those schools and young people who have least access to Shakespeare and the RSC and each year six to ten schools from around the country join its ranks.

These hub schools, secondary and primary, then work with up to seven cluster schools from their local area to share training and produce a Shakespeare performance festival.