Using film to meet special educational needs

16th March 2001 at 00:00

Pupils with severe learning difficulties, and pupils with difficulty accessing text, working at key stage 2 level pound;12.

Film Education, Alhambra House, 27-31 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0AU. Tel: 020 7976

Can you think of 10 films that include a character with special needs? Don't worry, the Office for Special Education's dedicated database of films can only find 11. Still, it is surprising that a new resource, one that aims to make the curriculum accessible for pupils with special needs, through reference to film, doesn't include any of them.

Film Education's new workpack, Using film to meet special educational needs, is a booklet of photocopiable lesson plans, ready referenced to areas of the national curriculum, and a video of short film clips, from Toy Story2 to Dinosaur.

The clips are fun, dramatic, and engaging. But it feels as if the lesson tasks and extension work have been picked to suit the content of the clip, rather than as a balanced means of "opening up the curriculum", as the blurb suggests.

The pack makes a good introduction to the world of visual media through its dependence on teaching film. Storyboarding, camera techniques, editing tricks, the use of music and special effects are all broached.

It is more successful in this respect than in its claims to introduce other areas of the curriculum, in particular, aspects o PSHE and citizenship. These aspects are poorly dealt with. One rationale for this pack suggests that "children's films often provide models of relationships that provide an insight into socialisation for children who might otherwise find this difficult". While I wouldn't disagree with this, the clips do little to provide any models of relationships other than the goodie-baddie type, which is more pantomime than real life.

Important themes such as friendship and the implications of difference are not explored, although the clips contain plenty of relevant material. Statements on relationships can come across as glib, if not misleading.

To call this workpack superficial is unkind. As an alternative teaching resource for learners with difficulties in accessing text, or those who are disengaged from traditional learning contexts, it is fun. But in claiming to meet the Government's target of "setting high expectations for children with SEN and helping them access the curriculum through relevant and motivational activities related to film", it's way short of the whole box of chocolates.

To view the database of films that include characters with special needs, visit the Office for Special Education at http:curry.edschool.virginia.educiseoseguide.html Fiona Sanderson is researching the use of ICT to encourage effective learning at the University of the West of England.

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