Your classroom critics

12th October 2007 at 01:00
Race, politics and the environment are complicated subjects. Why not use film to encourage debate and improve understanding? Hannah Frankel reports.

Learning through film is not a new concept, but National Schools Film Week is taking it to another level. Last year's event saw more than a quarter of a million pupils flock to see 1,500 films across the UK, and organisers predict this year will be even bigger.

The focus is The World We Live In, which looks at films that encompass issues such as bullying, the environment, race and politics. Instead of ploughing through worksheets about climate change, screenings of Earth or An Inconvenient Truth at the cinema can be stimulating ways of introducing the subject.

"It's a creative and engaging way of raising awareness," says Nick Davies, Friends of the Earth climate campaigner. "For today's generation, climate change is going to be a defining issue."

The Bridge to Terabithia is another film showing nationwide as part of the event. The fantasy adventure story is ideally suited to key stage 2 teachers who are looking for fresh anti-bullying material. Free resources based on the film, which will fit neatly into English, PSHE, citizenship or art lessons, are available at www.filmeducation.org bridgetoterabithiaindex.html.

The theme of the week encompasses a range and depth of films. "They provide a springboard for discussions on contemporary issues," according to Mark Kermode, a film critic and patron of National Schools Film Week, and teachers from last year seem to agree.

"It was a fantastic opportunity for the children to experience film and link it to the curriculum," says Nicola Bailey, literacy co-ordinator at Marston Green Junior School in Coventry. "We watched the visually impaired screening, which helped us with our play scripts module."

Among the films aimed at secondary pupils are The Last King of Scotland and Blood Diary. Charlotte's Web and March of the Penguins are recommended for primary pupils. As well as the films, film writing and narrative workshops led by regional film critics will be held across the UK. Masterclasses are also available, whereby filmmakers will discuss their experiences with pupils and answer questions.

The week begins on October 29 in Scotland and October 15 in the rest of the UK. Teachers can book tickets in advance at www.nsfw.org

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