Magazine article NATE Classroom

The Inclusive After-School Club

Magazine article NATE Classroom

The Inclusive After-School Club

Article excerpt

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The formality of learning within today's curriculum and classroom can prove challenging when trying to engage learners from such a broad spectrum of ability. How do we boost the confidence of those 20 per cent of students thought to have special educational needs at some point in their scholastic life? How do we inspire them to write when no amount of differentiation, frame-working or teaching support seems to achieve this? Similarly, stimulating and inspiring those at the gifted and talented end of the ability spectrum can also prove to be problematic for the English teacher. Tired of the prescriptivism of the read/write/speak/listen English curriculum doctrine, our most able pupils crave a stimulus that questions as much as it answers, opens debate, broadens horizons. Perhaps the answer to the inclusivity conundrum lies outside of the classroom altogether.

Film has always been the art world's great leveller, the darkened rows of the cinema are inhabited by as many highbrow film aficionados as young, excitable film fans. And it seems film's universal impact has triumphed once more in after-school film clubs. Film attracts all and affects all. In a move away from the competitive skill basis of most after-school activities, the watching of a film bonds rather than divides its often-diverse audience.

Being inclusive is one of the main aims of FILMCLUB, a Department of Education funded initiative, which helps teachers and their pupils set up after-school film clubs to watch, discuss and review a diverse range of films from around the world. Since its launch in 2007, the scheme has grown to involve over 4,500 schools and 130,000 pupils; part of that success is due to the unique inclusivity of a film club, whether that is providing a welcoming environment for a disengaged SEN pupil or a rich forum for debate and analysis for a G&T student. As one teacher says: '... it reaches some children that would not even think of going to other clubs available to them. This includes a child who is recovering from a brain tumour and wears two hearing aids who feels happy and confident to come to film club and socialise with children from the rest of the school.' And in the words of a parent: 'My son doesn't like school but enjoys school on days when FILMCLUB is on. It is a great incentive [for him] to go to school. It is a reward and with Declan having dyslexia, it really gives him a boost'.

A recent survey of club leaders supports this anecdotal evidence with 82% saying that the club integrated isolated or disengaged pupils. As well as making them feel included the scheme has other benefits for children with learning difficulties, as noted by a teacher at a Special School in Northumberland: 'It has had a positive impact on the children's literacy skills--for example enabling one pupil with autism to progress from reviewing via pictures to expressing himself through the written word. FILMCLUB also helps to improve the children's concentration skills.'

The reviewing feature on FILMCLUB's website has become one of the most successful aspects of the scheme, with over a quarter of a million reviews posted so far. The fact that these reviews are self-motivated rather than a prerequisite of the club and are not marked or moderated, generates a unique forum for pupil writing and is having a encouraging impact: 'Some of my boys who are reluctant writers are eager to complete film reviews and do so to such a high quality that I was pleasantly surprised, as they do not show that level of capability in class,' says one deputy headteacher.

The inability to be 'wrong' about a film and the freedom of expression away from the shame of the red pen leads to a joyfully unfiltered pupil voice; Kajidah (11) muses over the film Howl's Moving Castle: '.... see there's a lot of genres in this movie: about 350g of comedy, 100g of romance,(suitable for you lot)150g of fantasy and adventure, 200g of action, 99g of drama, 300g of war 700g of mystery. …

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