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Lessons miss the wonder of movies

Schools are failing to teach children about the unique language of films - one of the most culturally important media of the century.

Chris Bunting reports.

TWENTIETH-century society created a new language - the moving image - and schools are failing to teach it, according to a Government task force.

Making Movies Matter, the final report of the Film Education Working Group chaired by BBC controller Alan Howden, calls for a revolution in attitudes to film, television and the digital media.

A radical programme, to establish the moving image as a subject in its own right, calls for its inclusion in initial teacher training, in all levels of the national curriculum, and as a mandatory element in all school inspections.

"In demanding a proper recognition of moving image media, we are setting in train a profound cultural change in which we are essentially asking the British to feel good about enjoying movies," says the report.

The 25-member group, was set up last year by the Culture Secretary Chris Smith under the auspices of the British Film Institute.

Their wide-ranging report also calls for reforms to copyright law to make moving images more accessible as teaching materials, a unified youth discount scheme in all cinemas, government support for films aimed at under-12s and a better film library network.

"Few of the people who teach about the moving image have had much training in how to do it," the group claims. "Even in specialist post-14 courses, it is common experience for teachers of English or drama to be asked to teach media or film studies to examination level without any prior training."

Outside such specialist examinations, "the role of moving image material has been subordinated to that of illustrating literary texts and is rarely studied as film.

"Teachers are open about the reasons for this: they lack the confidence, the disciplinary background and the language that would enable them to engage with film as film," says the report.

Yet most pupils have great experience of the subject: "Almost all children come to school with the ability to read an image on the screen and to relate to narrative structures in films, videos and television. They have learned, through seeing a number of moving image texts, to understand narrative conventions and to predict possible developments in a story.

"We think that it would not place an additional burden on teachers if they were encouraged to acknowledge children's knowledge of moving images in classroom talk about texts, characters and genres. In fact, we believe most teachers would welcome this as a sensible extension of the National Literacy Strategy."

The report sets out a four-stage "model of learning progression" to be used as a basis of inspection of the subject and a five-hour course to be included in initial teacher training.

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