In this paper layered shells subjected to static loading are considered. The displacements of the Reissner–Mindlin theory are enriched by a an additional part. These so-called fluctuation displacements include warping displacements and thickness changes. They lead to additional terms for the material deformation gradient and the Green–Lagrangian strain tensor. Within a nonlinear multi-field variational formulation the weak form of the boundary value problem accounts for the equilibrium of stress resultants and couple resultants, the local equilibrium of stresses, the geometrical field equations and the constitutive equations. For the independent shell strains an ansatz with quadratic shape functions is chosen. This leads to a significant improved convergence behaviour especially for distorted meshes. Elimination of a set of parameters on element level by static condensation yields an element stiffness matrix and residual vector of a quadrilateral shell element with the usual 5 or 6 nodal degrees of freedom. The developed model yields the complicated three-dimensional stress state in layered shells for elasticity and elasto-plasticity considering geometrical nonlinearity. ... mehrIn comparison with fully 3D solutions present 2D shell model requires only a fractional amount of computing time.