UK Government: Using Movies in the Classroom; British Film Institute Announces Plans

October 16, 2000

The British Film Institute (bfi) recently announced they published Moving Images in the Classroom – a Secondary Teachers’ Guide to Using Film and Television as part of its plans for increasing the use of the moving image in classrooms and creating a more informed and cine-literate population.

The bfi’s publication of this Guide coincides with the implementation of a new requirement for secondary schools, from the beginning of the autumn term 2000, to address moving image texts as part of the National Curriculum for English. The bfi welcomes the fact that there is increasingly wide use of film and video in many other Curriculum subjects too such as Geography, History and Art.

Based on eight simple classroom techniques, the Guide was developed with the English and Media Centre (an independent non-profit organisation established in 1975) and with Film Education (a charity funded by the cinema industry – established in 1985), both of which are other significant providers of resources and training in this field. The bfi also received advice and help from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

The largest section of the Guide covers the use of moving images across the curriculum with, amongst other things, suggested activities and their outcomes/learning objectives. For example:

English Activity – Pupils identify and explore the equivalents of metaphor and symbol in specific film, video, or TV texts: the use of objects, lighting and colour to signal meanings, e.g. a slanting shadow across a face often signifies a troubled or fragmented personality. Outcome – pupils could produce plans, scripts, designs for moving image texts which explore or use metaphor and symbol.

Science Activity – Pupils view a science documentary, eg on the reactivity of metals, and re-present the information as a magazine feature using print and still images. Learning objectives – some things are easier to tell or show in moving images than print, and vice versa.

History Activity – freeze framing specific shots in a documentary about Hitler (as part of a world study after 1900). Pupils describe exactly what they see, noting camera angle, distance of camera from subject, lighting, and exactly what is included in the frame. Pupils discuss the reasons for these choices such as emphasising dominance and power. Learning objectives – every element of a moving image text carries meaning and producers manipulate these elements to produce desired effects.

The Guide also contains chapters on the creative use of moving image-based information and communications technologies and on classroom and school management of moving image resources. These chapters lead the reader through to a full-scale model of learning progression. This shows how children’s engagement with films and television in Key Stage 1 can lead right through to post-16 and higher education.

Commenting on the Guide, Joan Bakewell CBE, Chair of the bfi, said, “Education policy makers now recognise that critical and creative moving image skills are a key element of literacy. The British Film Institute, with its expertise in moving image culture, has responded to the new requirements of the National Curriculum by publishing Moving Images in the Classroom. A unique and indispensable resource, based on eight simple classroom techniques, we hope the Guide will reassure and assist thousands of teachers right across the school curriculum by helping them to use and teach film and television at the highest standards”.

Standards Minister at the Department of Education and Employment, Jacqui Smith, said, “Moving images – through film, television and increasingly, the Internet – are an important part of our everyday lives. Children adore them and they are a powerful teaching medium. Through this practical classroom guidance teachers can develop their own creativity and help their pupils acquire essential critical viewing skills.”

Films Minister at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Janet Anderson, said, “The DCMS is committed to ensuring that children and young people have the opportunity to learn about moving images and the media. New technology is moving at a rapid pace and access and exposure to the media are now part of everyday life. We need to recognise that moving image skills will be a key element in the future. Moving Images in the Classroom is an important step forward in securing the place of film, television, video and other media in the classroom.”

David Hargreaves, Chief Executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), said, “The QCA is delighted to have been involved in the development of this useful publication. It shows how film and television can be an integral part of all subjects and develop critical skills in all pupils. The Guide provides teachers with practical advice on how to integrate moving image material into the curriculum when implementing the revised National Curriculum programme of study.”

What Next

The Guide published today is for secondary schools in England. Future editions will include assistance for primary teachers and the bfi hopes to work with educators in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to explore the ways in which this guidance can be tailored to their curricula.


In July 1999, Making Movies Matter, the Film Education Working Group’s report (which was commissioned by the Department of Culture and Sport), was published. The group’s 25 members included teachers and lecturers in film and media studies and representatives from the film and television industries, including the BBC and the bfi. Over 40,000 parties were consulted.

The report called for a fresh approach to the moving image by education policy makers and FEWG put forward a number of proposals for long-term investment in moving image education. Following its publication, the bfi began focussing its educational mission on moving image media rather than on the much broader and more diffuse notion of media education.

The bfi will be using the techniques and approaches in Moving Images in the Classroom to underpin the wide range of resources and services for moving image education that it is developing. These include direct provision of events and workshops at venues across the UK, in-service teacher training courses, published resources for classroom teaching, and research into teaching and learning about the moving image. (Please see attachment giving examples of these activities and published resources).

The Catalogue

The bfi is also launching a new publication called The Catalogue today. This provides, for the first time, a comprehensive list of the bfi’s services and resources available to teachers to help them use the moving image more effectively in the classroom.

*Film Education is co-ordinating the fifth annual National Schools Film Week (6 – 13 October 2000). The event promotes the use of the moving image in classrooms and involves schools taking part in a number of film related activities including special screenings for children in their local cinemas.

The Guide is available on the bfi web site: and on the Department for Education and Employment’s Standards and Effectiveness web site: