A move in the right direction
It is not often a famous actor is excited by a school curriculum project. But when Brian Cox encountered the moving image education pilot in Angus, he was.
"I don't think I've had many experiences where I've felt I was at the beginning of something, something quite unique, and something that is the model for probably a whole technique that can be applied in schools throughout these islands," said the Scottish star of stage and screen.
A DVD featuring Mr Cox's appearance at a film award ceremony for the project is mounted on the cover of a booklet published today by Scottish Screen and Angus Digital Media Centre (ADMC). The two organisations co-authored the booklet with teachers who have pioneered MIE techniques in their classrooms as part of a national Future Learning and Teaching (FLaT) programme.
Moving image education and A Curriculum for Excellence sets the aims of MIE alongside those espoused by the developing national framework. It is part of a sustained effort by Scottish Screen and its partners to move MIE into the educational mainstream.
"There's no doubt," says Mr Cox, "this is something that has to be taken up in schools throughout Scotland and England, everywhere that values our culture."
The director of the media centre, Andrew Gallagher, has been instrumental in devising and supporting the Angus pilot since 2004. "We're feeling now that, two years into the project, the evaluation team from Glasgow university are giving us really positive feedback," he says. "So we wanted to join in the discussion over A Curriculum for Excellence and show what moving image education has achieved here."
For Scott Donaldson, education executive at Scottish Screen, the booklet demonstrates how MIE puts the ethos of A Curriculum for Excellence into action: "Moving image education gives a practical and realisable means to develop the classroom ethos in the way A Curriculum for Excellence wants."
Pupils and teachers can discuss and analyse moving image texts with the same rigour as they would the written word - and apply those techniques to other subject areas and situations.
"It's about the cultural, the critical and the creative - the 'three Cs' - articulated through the MIE model. What you see in the booklet is teachers talking about that and putting it into practice," he says.
Films become the locus of classroom teaching and a touchstone for the pupils' creativity, drawing on the essential components of film-making, such as storyboarding or direction as part of structured group activities.
The FlaT programme has set itself the task of raising attainment in literacy among the Brechin schools cluster. According to Mr Gallagher, signs are encouraging. "We're talking about improvements in reading, listening, numeracy and writing," he says. "They're taking ownership of their learning, more interest in group work and their ICT skills are going through the roof."
The people behind moving image education are hopeful that, when the Glasgow university team finally reports its findings in 2008, the evidence will speak for itself. Until then, the testimony of the teachers and pupils is frequently compelling.
One teacher writes: "Throughout the film-making process pupils have to make decisions, deal with the consequences of the choices they make, and learn from any mistakes." Pupil projects have included a video handbook for their school, an interview with education minister Peter Peacock and a film featuring a rather irate Pict.
Another teacher describes the rapport built up between pupils united by common goals. Of an animation project, the teacher writes: "Voting for voices and artwork has been based on the greater good of the film and not on a friendship basis".
"Sharing ideas has made me more confident," says one pupil. "I enjoyed working as a team," says another.
Environmental studies, citizenship, language and personal development have all been taught successfully using MIE techniques.
Although the full results of the project evaluation are yet to come in, Mr Donaldson is already considering the next move. "MIE is working, but how do we try and support that development elsewhere in Angus and in Scotland?"
He mentions smaller MIE projects in Edinburgh, Highland and South Ayrshire and has plans for pre-school and early years education. Ian Anderson of Angus council is already making plans to roll out MIE in the authority.
And what about secondary schools? The pupils who have been involved in the project will be moving into secondary this year, and taking MIE with them.
"They're very excited," says Mr Gallagher, "but it's the pupils who are the experts in moving image education and the teachers the novices - they're going to be learning from their new intake."
Scottish Screen, tel 0845 300 7300, e-mail email@example.com
Angus Digital Media Centre will have a stand at next week's Scottish Learning Festival in Glasgow