‘Mantle of the Expert’ Through Shakespeare

20th January 2022

By Wendy Macphee

This book records the work of a teacher making Shakespeare’s plays accessible to college students, including motor vehicle apprentices and secretarial trainees, through the drama-in-education life learning principles, called “Mantle of the Expert” of Dorothy Heathcote. These principles are also applied to those excluded from school, to music teaching for Special Needs pupils and English tutorials for young people. Included are detailed descriptions of workshops given by Dorothy Heathcote on “Antony and Cleopatra” and “Much Ado About Nothing” to students of the Mencap National College, Dilston, Northumberland. There are coloured illustrations of performances of two of the plays, “Twelfth Night” and “As You Like It” whose themes were worked by analogy by the motor vehicle mechanic apprentices.

I wrote this book after the end of my teaching career to record the profound influence that Dorothy Heathcote had on my work in schools, colleges and private English tutorials. The filmed work with the motor vehicle mechanic apprentices which I did as a M. Ed. with Dorothy at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne was especially important as most of the young people involved were known to be resistant to the kind of culture which the plays of Shakespeare represented and staff found it difficult to engage their interest in their compulsory English and Liberal Studies lectures which were part of their “day release” from their firms for further instruction in their motor vehicle technical skills. The results of Dorothy’s inspired methods were amazing, the students keen and committed. I could see that these kinds of filmed programmes would be most suitable for youth groups outside college. I found aspects of Dorothy’s methods critical to the music lessons I was engaged to give to Special Needs pupils and to other subjects in the curriculum, again stimulating keen engagement from all the pupils.


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