As you will probably have gathered by now, this is a difficult time for media and film studies, pending decisions about the redevelopment of specifications for 2017.
First of all, a reminder- the current GCSE and A level courses will continue till 2018, which means students starting this September (2015) and next September (2016) will see the full two years of their courses through, using the current specifications, whatever decisions are made about things starting from 2017. BTEC and OCR Technicals are unaffected by this review.
As you know, Ofqual announced last year that a number of subjects from ‘tranche 3’ would go to the next stage, whereby subject criteria would be drawn up which would need to be approved before the subjects would be allowed to go through for redevelopment. The exam boards and stakeholders (including teachers, representatives of HE and industry, as well as organisations like the BFI, Skillset and the MEA) have held meetings with Ofqual and the DFE to look at these subject criteria. Three versions of subject criteria submissions have already gone in and been given feedback by the DFE and Ofqual.
Last year, when we led a delegation to the DFE, we were told that decisions about the subjects yet to be reviewed, such as media and film, would all be down to Ofqual from then on, and that the DFE would not be intervening. However, that was before a reshuffle which brought Nick Gibb back as Schools Minister in charge of the reform process and he appears to have taken a keen interest in the content of some subjects. Judging by feedback we have so far received, his ‘interest’ in media studies is particularly acute and highly critical. The boards have submitted three drafts already and each one has come back with comments from Ofqual (who look at assessment) and the DFE (who look at content).
The main issues that we foresaw as problems for media and film were:
the proportions of NEA (non-exam assessment, the new term for coursework): we argued the case with the exam boards to retain as much as possible.
a perceived overlap between media studies and film studies.
level of demand (i.e. is it considered ‘hard enough’), which is an issue for all subjects, not just ours.
These issues remain, with the DFE currently insisting that film as a medium should not appear in the media subject criteria at all (i.e. you could not study cinema as part of the media) and raising questions about production work using moving image, suggesting that TV-based tasks are still too similar to film studies.
In addition, the DFE have insisted that only texts of sufficient ‘quality’ could be included in the subject. Some of their suggestions would make it impossible to teach about popular media. They have asked the boards to produce subject criteria which are so detailed (even down to almost precise texts which will be taught) that they resemble specifications.
Last week, the MEA executive met and was joined by some teacher stakeholders to discuss the issues. We agreed that at a stakeholder meeting for media with the exam boards the next day we would indicate that we would not be prepared to endorse the subject criteria drafts which were being put in for the next submission as we felt they were too far away from what we recognise as media studies.
When we told the exam boards this, they understood our strength of feeling and the level of concern. The boards asked for a meeting with the DFE officials who have been overseeing the submissions, which took place on Tuesday of this week and involved David Buckingham, of the MEA, and Natalie Fenton of the university subject association, MECCSA. David and Natalie discussed the case for media studies with the DFE officials and one of the outcomes of the meeting was that they offered to produce another version of the subject criteria that will be acceptable to both the MEA and MECCSA. This will be submitted in the near future and will attempt to address the DFE’s concerns.
Film studies looked to be in a less precarious position until the last few days, but stakeholders have been told that there are major concerns with it too. There is less of an issue with ‘quality texts’ here, since it is easier to come up with ‘long lists’ of films to study, so we are unsure as to the grounds for objection. However, issues around non-exam assessment remain and the boards are being asked to give more detail regarding the ‘level of demand’ at each of GCSE, AS and A level and how this is differentiated.
We feel it is probably time for media teachers to call upon headteachers, former students, parents and others to see if they can find ways of influencing those in power. Mr. Gibb may not be persuadable on the grounds of the arguments made by media teachers, but local Tory MPs finding that popular and successful subjects in good schools in their constituencies are under threat might be tempted to speak up for them. Mr. Gibb’s views on education more broadly are clearly outlined in this article from the Independent:
MEA is watching developments very closely, and is actively considering several potential courses of action as the process moves forward. We will keep members informed via the website and newsletter alerts.
Key Arguments for the future of GCSE and A level Media and Film Studies are here, should you need them !
Last year, over 50,000 completed GCSE Media and 22,000 completed A-level Media; over 6,000 completed A-level Film and over 7,000 completed GCSE Film.
David Buckingham (Media) and Ian Wall (Film) have both been attending the ‘stakeholder consultations’ with ofqual, the DFE and the exam boards. You will be pleased to know that several teachers have also been part of the groups, so that there is a strong voice for media educators. At the moment, progress sounds good, as David and Ian report:
The definitions of aims and subject content in Media Studies are being clarified and strengthened in several ways, but they should continue to reflect accepted definitions of the field in terms of four key concepts (media language, representation, institution, audience), and as involving critical analysis plus creative production. There is likely to be a somewhat stronger emphasis on historical as well as contemporary aspects of media (at both GCSE and A-level); and on global media (at A-level). The key issue as the process goes forward is likely to be the role of coursework. All the stakeholders (teachers, academics, industry representatives) were insistent on the importance of practical production and extended research-based essay writing: both were seen to be essential preparation for further study and for employment, and in many respects to be more demanding than timed tests.
Many of the areas covered in discussion regarding Film Studies mirrored those within Media Studies. As with Media Studies, the aims and subject content of Film Studies were clarified and strengthened, there was a clear agreement between all stakeholders of the importance of practical production and extended research based essays (the latter particularly emphasized by the academic members of the group). One key point at GCSE was the demand for more focus on world cinema.
Differentiation between Media Studies and Film Studies will also be an issue. Media Studies criteria will continue to specify at least three media, although film will often be one of these. The subject content may also be defined in rather different ways, with more of an’aesthetic’ emphasis in Film Studies and a more ‘sociological’ one in Media Studies. As the process moves forward, there is a need to avoid drawing up endless ‘shopping lists’ of favourite topics, and to ensure that the criteria remain reasonably future-proof.
The issue of AS and A Level being separate examinations with potentially different content raised issues regarding how courses might be organised to offer students flexibility of choice at the end of AS.
Happy New Year to all MEA members.
We start the new year still awaiting news of the reforms to A level and GCSE Media and Film Studies. There is no reason to doubt that the subjects will be allowed to continue, but we are still waiting to find out the rules for the creation of new specifications to start in 2017.
Research into audiences for The Hobbit
We have heard from Martin Barker, who would like our help with a survey
which is gathering responses around the world on the films of The Hobbit. The survey can be found at: www.worldhobbitproject.org. This is in many senses a re-run but more ambitious update on what they did with The Lord of the Rings a decade ago. Then, they had research teams in 18 countries, recruited in 14 languages, and managed to attract 25,000 responses. This time, they have research teams in 47 countries, are taking responses in 33 languages – and already have over 18,000 responses. The survey is also more ambitious in that they are trying to tackle through this some of the larger questions about the changing status of ‘fantasy’ generally (think Game of Thrones, Hunger Games, etc, etc).
Among the people we want to recruit are both teachers (people who might use The Hobbit either as book or film in the classroom) and young people, so we told Martin we’d try to get some responses from MEA members and their students!
Resource Productions Course News
Evening Film and Creative Writing Course
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Dates of course:
Monday 12th January – Monday 9th February 2015 (5 week Course) 6:30pm – 8pm
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For more information visit: www.resource-productions.co.uk
Arts Awards Adviser Forums
Arts Award is a unique national qualification that helps young people up to the age of 25 develop as artists and arts leaders. The programme helps to develop their creativity, leadership and communication skills.
Resource Productions will be running Buckinghamshire & Berkshire Arts Award Forum for advisers and those delivering the Arts Award based within both areas.
Berkshire Arts Award Forums
Slough – Monday 2nd February, 3:30-5pm
Want more information about Arts Award Adviser Forums?
Contact Oliver via 01753 553 374 or
The National Schools Partnership, an education agency that produces free resources and runs events for schools and young people, which works with well-known brands and companies to bring teachers fun and educational lesson plans, teacher notes, competitions and opportunities to take learning outside of the classroom is pleased to announce a brand new free full day learning experience for 16 -19 year olds: Sky Academy Careers Lab. Based at Sky’s headquarters in Osterley, West London, this innovative initiative brings careers in the media and creative industries to life, helps students build employability skills and provides a unique insight into the world of work at Sky.
Launched at the beginning of December by Prince Charles, Sky Academy Careers Lab has already seen an amazing amount of initial interest and activity. Dates for January and February 2015 are already fully booked, however there is still some availability in March, with further dates due to be released in the New Year.
For more information on what students and teachers can expect on the day click here.