All of us at Into Film read Tom Bennett's recent TES column with interest, particularly his comment that: “Outside of a media course the only place for a full movie is a film club or similar.”
While we welcome his endorsement of film clubs (since our organisation supports a network of many thousands across the UK), we challenge strongly his assertion that watching movies in the classroom should be the sole preserve of media courses, especially if we are supposed to infer from this that films cannot be hugely rich resources for learning, or indeed that the stories they tell cannot be intrinsically educational.
A well-chosen film (including short-form films used by many teachers), used well, can help bring learning to life, stimulating thought and understanding, and acting as a springboard for lively classroom discussion and debate. And this applies to just about every subject, curriculum area or issue you care to name.
In addition, there is emerging evidence that using film in the classroom is particularly effective in contributing to the development of literacy skills in children and young people, providing teachers with an additional tool to address this key area.
The Leeds Partnership Project: Improving Literacy Through Film (2014/15), in which pupils regularly took part in film watching and filmmaking, recorded a 96 per cent improvement in average points progress in reading, compared with the previous term, and a 60 per cent improvement in writing. This is part of a growing bank of evidence and case studies highlighting the numerous positive educational outcomes that the use of film can help to achieve that we'd be pleased to share with Mr Bennett, and it can be viewed here.
'A powerful storytelling medium'
We'd also remind him that film is an art form, arguably the most influential of the last century; it depicts great stories from our histories and of contemporary life, and is a central part of our shared cultural heritage. So we hope Mr Bennett isn't suggesting that film shouldn't have a place in the core classroom learning of children and young people, just as we trust that he wouldn't suggest music, visual art, drama or dance don't have a place.
We're pleased, though, that the piece has prompted debate. The many comments in response (including those under Sunday's Observer article about the "furore" it ignited) articulate more clearly than we ever could the numerous educational benefits of learning through and about film.
Amanda Nevill, CEO of the British Film Institute, for one, is not in any doubt: “Film is the great modern art form and one of the most powerful storytelling mediums we have to enrich lives and to expand and deepen our understanding of the world and other people.
“Why is it that Austen and Shakespeare are on the curriculum but Hitchcock and David Lean are absent? All are the great storytellers of the world. We firmly believe that film's inclusion in formal education is vital for the success of future generations.”