Investing in film education

Written by: HTU | Published:

The British Film Institute is investing £26 million in a unified programme of film education. Headteacher Janice Middleton explains

In 2012, the Henley Review of Cultural Education in England highlighted that every child should have access to a wide variety of high-quality cultural experiences which are academically and socially enriching, arm them with useful skills, and which might help them to contribute to Britain’s creative industries in the future. 

The report also stated that a sound cultural education should allow children to gain knowledge through the learning of facts, understanding through the development of their critical faculties, and skills through the opportunity to practise specific art forms. 

Around the same time, Lord Smith in his Independent Review of British Film called for a new programme to bring film education into every school, so that every child in the UK will have opportunities to see a wide range of films, to learn about film, and to make their own films.

These are experiences which help to stimulate creativity, language development and literacy skills and which support the appreciation of diversity, while also helping to develop the next generation of audiences and filmmakers.

For many schools, particularly those in disadvantaged or rural areas, providing these opportunities hasn’t been easy. 

My school, Edlington Victoria, in a deprived area of Doncaster, was fortunate to join the FILMCLUB scheme five years ago and has already seen how through encouraging children to watch, discuss and review a wide range of quality, diverse and age-appropriate films we can have a significant, positive impact on their academic and social development. 

The beauty of film is its universal appeal – yet unlike art forms such as literature, theatre or music, it has never featured prominently in education. 

This, however, is set to change following the British Film Institute’s decision to invest £26 million of Lottery funds in a new, unified programme of film education which will give every school in the country easy access to watching, making and learning about film.

From this month, the new programme will build on the work of education charity, FILMCLUB and film-making organisation, First Light, and bring together a network of film, education, arts, culture and youth partners dedicated to engaging millions of young people in film. 

It will be supported by a new, online platform which will serve as a “one-stop destination” to explore and enjoy film, giving access to learning materials, resources and information, and offering interaction with multiple audiences.

A key element will be the introduction of a new National Youth Film Festival (October 21 to November 8, 2013) with free, nationwide film screenings and related activities, which will build on the legacy of National Schools Film Week that ran until 2012.

What this means in practice is that as educators we will have a raft of easily obtainable tools at our disposal to widen pupils’ experiences and learning by teaching them through film and about film.  

This is especially important for pupils living in deprived areas who have few opportunities to experience life beyond their own community. The film club model will be extended to bring together film watching, making and understanding. 

As well as the free access to thousands of films and associated resources enjoyed by the 7,000 schools that already run film clubs, every school in the country will have access to an extensive selection of curricula and cultural film resources which will actually drive film watching as well as reinforce the curriculum. 

Many of these will be produced in partnership with education experts such as National Schools Partnership and Pearson, teaching associations, or well-known charities like Oxfam or the Beatbullying Group. 

Training in basic film-making skills will be provided for teachers across the UK as will CPD to enable many more educationalists to effectively use film to complement and support the curriculum, and guide young people in the development of a critical appreciation of film culture. 

Training webcasts, with the opportunity to text, email or tweet questions, will make training accessible to many more teachers, including those who struggle to be released from school or travel long distances.

Using film in the classroom isn’t new – what’s new is the commitment to film education for all, the scale of this programme, and the cohesive manner in which it will be delivered. In my school, where pupils have limited access to culture, I see how film, in our club and in lessons such as English, history and PSHE, sparks their imagination and broadens their horizons. 

A unified programme of film education, extended to include film-making and available to every school in the country, will present new ways for children from all walks of life to learn how to be creative and at the same to acquire knowledge about creativity and culture.

The facilities and resources to teach through and about film as it becomes an integral part of education will help us improve pupils’ critical thinking and self-expression, both of which are linked to wider academic attainment. We must embrace these opportunities and help to equip the next generation for a world where the moving image is becoming increasingly important.

  • Janice Middleton is headteacher of Edlington Victoria School in Doncaster.

Further information

For information on the National Youth Film Festival and the new programme go to www.filmnationuk.org. For more on FILMCLUB, visit www.filmclub.org

 

  • For more primary education best practice and advisory articles from Headteacher Update, click here.


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