As a mother of two small children, I spend an inordinate amount of time reading up on how best to support their learning and development. It regularly feels like an uphill struggle to stay out of the ‘unwise parenting zone’. Thankfully, there are some things that children enjoy, which are also good for them – and for society. Film is one of them.
As head of Into Film Cymru, a branch of the leading UK-wide education charity, Into Film, I can categorically tell you that watching and making films are good for children and young people. It entertains, inspires and educates.
Obviously, as with everything in life, ‘too much of a good thing’ (like sleep) applies. A plugged-in, logged-on childhood definitely has its place, but without tree-climbing, puddle-splashing, fresh air and lots of sleep, it just becomes overexposure to screen-time and an impediment to a child’s social and language skills.
But quality time spent watching films pays dividends – both in terms of educational attainment and career prospects. I have seen, first hand, the ways that film can transform a once reluctant pupil into a Grade A star. It engages children, who are difficult to engage with. It sparks an interest in literacy, numeracy and digital literacy.
One teacher told me recently how film had made for a “startling breakthrough” with a group of 10-year-old boys, who were simply uninterested in reading books until he started showing them films. This multi-platform medium had opened up a new world to them, some of whom were obviously visual or kinesthetic learners.
Teachers who have set up our Into Film Clubs have consistently told us about the change they’ve seen in some of their most challenging pupils. The introduction of this familiar medium captures their imaginations. When teachers couple these sessions with Welsh curriculum linked resources then it’s as easy as A, B, C.
In fact, in a recent UK-wide survey of teachers who run Into Film Clubs, 80% said participation had improved literacy standards, 92% said it had enhanced pupils’ access to culture, and 95% said it increased pupils’ enjoyment of school.
Film is perfectly placed to cater to the needs of the new ‘Successful Futures’ curriculum in Wales, in its response to the 2015 Donaldson Review. Welsh actor Rhys Ifans in a recent visit to Ysgol Plasmawr, described film as “a great leveller”. It can help young people from all backgrounds to develop the skillset and attitude needed to contribute to a thriving, bilingual, creative and digital society of the future.
Other opportunities on offer with Into Film, like the Young Reporter project, can also help support pupils’ career options as well their educational attainment. We try to offer them glimpses into this world – behind and in front of the camera.
Now, to my mind, this is important because Welsh Government is ploughing time, money and resources into supporting the creative industries. Already, it has become the fastest growing sector in Wales, generating nearly £1bn a year.
But in order to make this a sustainable sector of growth, each and every child in Wales should consider the film sector as a viable career option. Regardless of their socio-economic background, or their links to the sector, they should see it, at the very least, as an option.
Our industry supporter, visual effects company Milk VFK, based at GloWorks in Cardiff Bay, shares this view. That’s why they are paying for the transport of schools that come from deprived areas, to the launch of our free film festival, the world’s biggest free youth film festival, for 5-to 19-year-olds, between 8th and 24th November.
One of the reasons that we offer the Into Film Festival, with 200 free screenings and events across Wales, is because we are acutely aware that so many children in Wales live below the poverty line, with these numbers set to increase significantly. Consequently, more and more children live in households where disposable income for trips to the cinema is rare to non-existent. How can they be inspired to enter the film industry, if they never go to the cinema?
This festival offers a free trip to the cinema to all, which is why we want teachers and other educators across Wales to use this golden opportunity – particularly for the sake of less well-off children.
Film is a powerful tool that not only supports the education system in Wales but our economy. Almost half of our schools that run film clubs have higher than average Free School Meal (FSM) entitlements, which shows that there is demand out there.
Rhys Ifans, again in a recent visit to inspire young people in Cardiff said: “you open up a world of possibilities for all, regardless of how much money they have in their pocket”. And who can argue with that?
The Into Film Festival 2017 takes place from 8th until 24th November. All 200 events and screenings across Wales are free. For programme information, to book tickets and download resources, including Welsh curriculum linked resources, visit: www.intofilm.org/festival Into Film Clubs offer schools free access to films, teaching resources, special events and opportunities for pupils to learn about careers in the creative industries.
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