If you’d like to contribute to his site, please e-mail him: email@example.com
2. and via Mark Reid at the BFI, a request for participation in research on the use of films in education:
I’m wondering if you might be able to help with a request I’ve had from a colleague in the Autonomous University of Barcelona (AUB) about some research they are leading for the FilmED consortium (www.filmedeurope.wordpress.com/consortium). The consortium is led by Jose Manuel Perez Tornero and includes AUB, the Think Tank on European Film and Film Policy, CUMEDIAE and AEDE.
They are conducting some Europe-wide research on ‘FilmEd – Showing films and other audiovisual content in European schools: Obstacles and best practices’ which aims to analyse the use of cinema and other audiovisual content in European schools, with a view to making recommendations to the European Commission.
As part of the project they want teachers and School Heads to complete an online survey. They launched the survey a number of months ago but have had a poor response rate from the UK and I believe the survey is going to close soon.
This is an engaging read as a whole book, and as Marsh points out in the foreword, it is long overdue book.
Many claims are made to the value of studying media for young people. But here Parry sets out on a very particular path to argue for the value of bringing children’s film in particular into the wider development of understanding of narrative, to make the experience of watching/making children’s films an integral part of reading and writing, indeed of literacy itself.
The first three chapters explicitly focus on the role of children’s film in children’s lives. Parry takes on board all of the arguments made against children’s films: arguments that accuse children’s films of erring on the side of happy endings (Disney’s crime), or films that refuse the difficulties in a complex narrative from a book and opt for a happy ending instead. And, she acknowledges criticisms about a lack of diversification in children’s narratives both at a text level and very obviously in the lack of opportunity for diverse points of view from those employed in the industry. In spite of all these sometimes legitimate critiques of children’s films, she still argues that “the space created by children’s films are open, complex and rich, rather than entirely closed and didactic.” (2013:31) Thus by Chapter Four, the objective of her research is clarified. She sets out to answer a crucial question of how children learn about narrative through their engagement with children’s films. She does this through a small-scale piece of qualitative research with 9-10 year olds exploring the processes involved in reading films and the way that understanding of moving image narrative could impact on understanding of narrative in print.
What much of the book is about comes from data gathered, presented and analysed from a small-scale qualitative enquiry based in a primary school in the north of England. For emerging researchers in the field, discussions about methodology, ethics and analysis of data is meticulously well presented. Parry details at length (see Chapter 5) the rationale for her approach as participatory, visual and collaborative with fine consideration given to how the young people (9-10 years) old might present, discuss and interpret their responses. Furthermore, she was eager to work in such a way that she could capture some of how film made young people feel, or act, rather than just how it made them think, a refreshing riposte to many more rationalist accounts of meaning-making.
The conclusions are rightly cautious based on a small-scale study. There is no attempt to generalise from the findings but instead to offer the findings as a way of other educators measuring their practice, or seeing the identities children present as possible identities of children they work with in other contexts.
What she does extrapolate from the research is that there are parallels to be drawn between children developing as readers of books and children becoming readers of film. Children used their understanding of children’s films as resources for talk and play at home and socially at school and Parry argues that these prior explorations of narrative should have more value in school. There is a major issue tackled here in that the “disconnect” between home literacy practices and school practices, has a negative impact on many young people’s sense of esteem and worth as well as limiting the breadth and depth of their understanding of narrative. Why does all that understanding have to be left at the classroom door?
For Parry, children’s films do exciting things for children: they put children at the centre of narrative, they draw heavily on fantasy, and make children the drivers of action. Compared with many school-based explorations of narrative, children’s film narratives are full of the joy of a central child character who takes risks, or gets into scrapes, or shows bravery whereas the narratives children are instructed to write in school are safe, neat, ordered and over-structured . In short, children’s writing of narrative rarely is allowed to make reference to the wide, rich and detailed narratives encountered in the watching histories of children. Instead writing narratives often gets lost in an imperative to include “a simile to achieve a certain level of attainment” (208). Ultimately, what Parry argues is that there is a shocking loss of opportunity in cutting off children’s social and pleasurable engagements with film texts, and not using them to build a ladder of opportunity as Protherough, argues.
In the final chapter, Parry sounds an optimistic bell for the arrival of the BFI Film Forever strategy, one strand of which has given FilmNationUK the contract for drawing up a film education programme with activities and support across the UK, available to all 27,600 schools, to cinemas, to youth organisations and community groups. I would have to challenge that laudable optimism as such a far-reaching strategy has landed in a period of education policy assault on media education more broadly.
What is worth getting on board with here – and through reading this book – is the engagement with arguments about attainment and achievement which have led current government policy to work at limiting pupils’ access to different narratives. The strength of this book is that Parry argues to draw on the extensive, expanded notion of storytelling children gain from watching films and make that impact on their conventional literacy learning.
A great deal has already been achieved in film education, and there is excellent practice to be found in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England. Furthermore, since the launch of Film Forever twelve months ago, the BFI has completed the first year of the BFI Film Academy (for aspiring young film makers) and awarded Lottery funding to FILM NATION UK (to deliver film into the education of all 5-19 year olds). At the same time, we continue to support education through our programming, our online services, and our in-venue work at BFI Southbank.
Now is the time to bring our vision and plans up to date, to confirm the value of partnership across the sector, and to define the specific role of the BFI itself. We also want to bring into focus the evidence we have for the importance of learning about – and through – screen media, and we will commission additional research where gaps can be identified.