HUNDREDS of students from across Dorset and Hampshire are treading the boards this week as part of the worldwide Shakespeare Schools Festival.

Pupils from 11 different schools are performing over three nights at the Regent Centre in Christchurch.

The world's largest drama festival was designed to attract a wider audience to local theatre and this week will be no exception.

An exhilarating evening of theatre is in prospect each evening as budding young thespians take to the stage to perform abridged versions of some of the Bard’s most famous plays including As You Like It, The Tempest, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure and Julius Caesar.

Wednesday November 15 will see performances from Brockenhurst College, Victoria Education Centre and the Glenmoor and Winton Academies.

The following evening will see Baden-Powell and St Peter’s Junior School, Cranborne Middle School and Poole High School on stage and the final evening will see performances from Priestlands School, Queen Elizabeth’s School, Blandford School and Twynham School.

The performances are three of 292 taking place across the UK between October 16 and December 8.

Organisers claim the experience can give young people confidence and self esteem to last a lifetime. As a result of the festival, 97 per cent of teachers say their students work better together as a team and that their students' confidence increases.

Chief Executive Ruth Brock said: "Every workplace needs people who are confident and can work as a team and every community needs people who can get on with other people of very different backgrounds.

"Taking part in the festival teaches these things and, crucially, it helps young people make friends and have fun."

Tickets cost £10 or £7.50 concessions and are available by calling 01202 499199.