05/11/2012 03:48 GMT | Updated 04/01/2013 05:12 GMT

William Shakespeare's 450th Birthday To Be Marked With Plays Across Nation's Schools

Thousands of children are to be given the chance to stage a Shakespeare play in a theatre to mark the 450th anniversary of the Bard's birth in 2014.

The Shakespeare Schools Festival, whose patrons include Dame Judi Dench, Kevin Spacey and Jenny Agutter, will receive £140,000 from the Department for Education to help it almost triple the number of schools it works with, reaching 50,000 children in 2014.

The department is also giving the Royal Shakespeare Company £125,000 to provide all state secondary schools with a free copy of its RSC Shakespeare Toolkit for Teachers, containing more than 60 hours of teaching resources on Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Ms Agutter said: "The use of language can give us more than basic communication. Shakespeare's wonderful plays let us hear and understand people's strengths, weaknesses, fears and joys.

"The plays pose questions about humanity and morality. The words have a music that touches our senses.

"What better way for young people to understand language than taking part in SSF and discovering these extraordinary texts?"

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: "I was enraptured by a Shakespeare Schools Festival performance of Macbeth by a primary school at the Royal Court earlier this year.

"The festival enables students to bring the plays of the great playwright to life and does fantastic work to improve cultural education in our schools."

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