How schools can engage with the new national film education programme


The British Film Institute is investing £26 million in a unified programme of film education from this September, including a new national youth and education film festival. Jane Fletcher explains.

If you use film in the classroom and beyond or would like to, these are exciting times. The British Film Institute (BFI) is investing £26 million of Lottery funds in a new, unified programme of film education which is set to provide a myriad of new opportunities for pupils and educators in every UK school.

The BFI’s decision represents the biggest investment in film education ever seen in this country. It is well timed too. Last year the Henley Review of Cultural Education in England highlighted the academic and social benefits to young people of participating in high-quality cultural experiences, and Lord Smith’s Review of British Film called for every young person in the UK to have opportunities to watch, learn about and make their own films. 

Recent surveys show a high demand among teachers for more film-based CPD and those already running film-based projects report a significant improvement in the behaviour and motivation of pupils taking part.

At FILMCLUB, feedback from 7,000 member schools indicates that watching, discussing and reviewing a wide range of quality, age-appropriate films can significantly boost children’s literacy, critical skills, confidence and self-expression. 

Film appeals to all, regardless of ability, yet unlike art forms such as literature, theatre or music, it has never, to date, featured prominently in education.

The new, unified programme of film education will give every school in the country easy access to watching, making and learning about film. 

The work is to be led by Film Nation UK, a new charity set up for the purpose. From September, it will collaborate with and build on the work of 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 easy 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 in October with free, nationwide film screenings and related activities, which will build on the legacy of National Schools Film Week that ran until 2012.

The inaugural National Youth Film Festival will take place from October 21 to November 8, with free screenings, curriculum-linked resources, film-making workshops, competitions and awards, and a tool-kit to run your own in-school or community film festival.

In schools, the film club model will be extended to bring together film watching, making and understanding, and make them available to all. The aim will be to enable schools to incorporate film into all areas so pupils are interacting with it on a variety of levels inside and outside the curriculum, during school hours and in after-school clubs. 

For teachers, there will be greater access to film-based training, support and CPD to enable them, in a digital age, to widen pupils’ learning by teaching them through film and about film. 

Additional training and CPD, building on existing provision, will be delivered in a variety of formats, ranging from downloadable information about copyright law or programming a club, to interactive training webcasts. 

These will include the opportunity to text, email or tweet questions and will make training accessible to many more teachers, including those who struggle to be released from school or travel long distance. 

The fact that there are already a number of excellent film education training programmes and practitioners on offer will not be ignored – gathering and sharing expertise from those who run them will be a vital aspect of all training and CPD.

There will also be increased provision of training in basic film-making skills for teachers across the UK, and CPD to enable many more educationalists – not just those involved with film and media studies – 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 and CPD will be developed in partnership with teaching unions, the BFI and other partners in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales as part of a collaborative approach to reach more teachers, respond to teacher demand and build on existing good practice.

Collaboration and responding to teachers will also be integral to the new film resources, which will complement the curriculum in subjects including English, literacy, history, geography, science, PSHE and modern languages. 

All of these areas have been highlighted by teachers as being subjects for which they would particularly like to have film-based resources.

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

The new programme will also give schools the chance to provide students across the UK from all walks of life with in-depth information about career possibilities in the film industry – an industry that contributes more than £4 billion to the country’s GDP and is growing in spite of the recession, but which many young people feel is beyond their reach.

To take pupils behind the scenes of the industry there will be in-school visits and monthly, live web-chats with film industry professionals, and an encyclopaedic video archive of how films are made, searchable by craft or profession, with links to information about how young people might explore that aspect of film-making themselves.

The scale and reach of this programme will provide an added dimension to education. 

It will enable teachers who are already using film innovatively and effectively – and there are many – to share their practice with others, and NQTs or those less confident to receive support so they can do the same. 

In a world where the moving image and digital literacy are increasingly important, this new dimension may prove as interesting and valuable to teachers as to their students.

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