Sir Lenny Henry launches Let’s Play, the National Theatre’s new national primary school programme

Sir Lenny Henry today launches Let’s Play, a major new initiative supporting the development of drama and theatre in primary schools across the country.
Let’s Play commissions exciting new plays with songs and music for children aged 4 to 11 to perform. The programme also provides teachers with high quality training and professional development. This is designed to inspire creative learning across the curriculum and to enable the school to involve children in all aspects of planning and creating a theatre production – from performing to designing costumes to operating sound. The National Theatre is aiming to recruit at least 700 schools across the UK to take part in Let’s Play over the next 3 years.
Sir Lenny Henry, a member of the National Theatre’s board of trustees spoke at the launch, “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. Let’s Play is the perfect scheme to engage primary school children in the artistic process, it’s an essential part of a young person’s creative and artistic education.”
The Commons Select Committee on Education has reported that SATS (standardised assessment tests) and the pressure on schools to compete in national league tables has led to a narrowing of the curriculum with a focus on English and maths at the expense of the arts. All children are entitled to a broad and balanced curriculum with a rich arts and cultural education.
Speaking at the launch Lisa Burger, NT Executive Director said, ‘At the National Theatre we believe that all young people wherever they are in the UK should have the chance to see, make and explore theatre as a core part of their education. Let’s Play is the National Theatre’s commitment to supporting schools across the country and to developing teachers’ skills to ensure that the arts, including drama and theatre, remain a vital part of school life. Theatre has the power to transforms lives. It connects and empowers children and young people, develops their skills, confidence and curiosity and vitally, drives imagination and empathy.’
Developed by professional theatre artists alongside teachers and senior leaders from primary schools across the country, Let’s Play is an ambitious creative learning programme designed to transform creativity and theatre-making in schools. Using a programme of Continued Professional Development and Learning for teachers, specially commissioned plays for children at Key Stage 1 and 2 to perform, and extensive learning resources, Let’s Play inspires learning across the curriculum.
Hill Mead Primary School took part in the pilot of Let’s Play last year. Becky Lawrence, Deputy Head Teacher, spoke at the launch about what the teachers and children had learnt from the programme, “The Let’s Play programme has had a huge impact on the children – it has developed their speaking and listening skills, supported their reading and writing skills and their confidence and empathy grew rapidly. The training was exceptional and prepared teachers to deliver the programme with confidence and enthusiasm, and with an improved understanding of teaching through drama.”
The Paul Hamlyn Foundation is supporting the programme across the UK. Catherine Sutton, Senior Grants Manager from PHF commented “School productions are important occasions in the primary school calendar and a valuable vehicle for pupils’ learning. Let’s Play will enable schools to extend and deepen the opportunities for creative teaching and learning offered by school productions, to build teachers’ knowledge and confidence and to develop children’s skills and enjoyment of drama and theatre. We’re delighted to be supporting this new programme.”
The National Theatre’s partner for learning is Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Andrea Sullivan, international executive, global Environmental, Social and Governance at BofAML, said: “The education programmes which we are supporting are crucial to ensuring that creativity and innovation are fostered in our children from a young age. The bank’s support reflects our commitment to partnering with arts institutions to help promote cultural understanding and enrich our local communities.”
Let’s Play is based on an original idea by Katie Mitchell.
For more information and to sign up your school visit:
Let’s Play is supported by Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Charlotte and Simon Warshaw.
The Mohn Westlake Foundation supports nationwide Learning programmes for young people.