London Nautical School

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Southbank/BFI Cultural Campus Projects 2012

Lambeth Schools, The Ring Residency, Music Group, BFI, June 2012

Lambeth Schools, The Ring Residency, Music Group, BFI, June 2012

Over 2012 I have been observing and capturing the activities of local schools in this year’s Cultural Campus Projects at London’s Southbank Centre, mainly in association with the BFI Education. I have posted photos and some research findings on the blog below. The 10 Capacities refer to a framework for a deeper understanding of arts education projects developed by the Lincoln Centre Institute, New York.

http://10capacities.wordpress.com/

The participating schools this year were: The London Nautical School, Rosendale Primary School, Telferscot Primary School, Charles Edward Brooke Secondary School and Dunraven Secondary School.

Comments here and on the above blog are welcome as ever. You may also be interested in reading about last year’s week-long Lambeth Schools residency in June 2011 (pdf 1MB) whose stimulus was Vertov’s ‘Man with a Camera’.

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Film, Student Teachers & the London Nauticals

English student teachers and some Year 7s jointly embraced the challenge of making a ‘Film in a Day’. An ever-fruitful collaboration between The Institute of Education (IoE) and London Nautical School (LNS) produced some truly imaginative, filmed responses to ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’. Theo Bryer and Rebecca Wilson from the IoE and LNS English teachers Chris Waugh & Morlette Lindsay (also IoE), worked in partnership to create an intertextual learning extravaganza.

The Year 7s were well prepared for the day in terms of familiarity with the poem and with thoughts on a filmed and edited response. The teachers had been trained in the use of software and Flip cameras the day before, having made their own ‘film in a day’, and were thus primed to execute new knowledge. Many pages and posts could be written on why this project was the success it was, but in my role as observer, capturer and enthusiast, I’d like to highlight a couple of points…

Cary Bazalgette, indefatigable advocate of moving image literacy (MIE), has long been voicing the benefits of its more widespread use in school curricula. In her 2009 report “Impacts of Moving Image Education: A Summary of Research for Scottish Screen“, she concludes from various studies that:

… by gaining confidence and control in one medium, it becomes easier for children to envisage themselves as authors in other media too: thus, gains in the more conventional ‘textual production’ modes of writing, speaking and listening are reported across most of the studies (2009:21)

Not only does use of one medium nourish the use of others, Chris claims that the nuanced meaning-making and sophisticated understanding evidenced by the boys’ films in some cases far exceeds that which could have been achieved with a written response.

From the teachers’ perspective, although a 3:1 pupil/teacher ratio isn’t realistic in the real world, experience shows that with adequate logistical and pupil preparation in media-related projects, teachers could aspire to a facilitator’s role, choreographing groups rather than directing them. In this way, students feel the benefit of autonomous and sticky learning.

As Chris pointed out on a subsequent screening day to all 130 student teachers and as Theo materially demonstrated throughout the 2-day stint, it takes a pioneering spirit to promote film making as an alternative means of showing understanding in traditional school settings.Both students and teachers were very much ‘in the moment’ during editing (see my posts on flow), making deeper and remixed reference back to the text. What more can an English teacher ask?

Increasingly I think that digital editing not only provides a meaningful context for learning but also makes explicit a key 21st century competence: being discerning when it comes to making selections from masses of data. The boys’ films can be seen on Chris’s Year 7 blog.

Here’s a short film of various moments in the day, showing salubrious levels of interaction between students and teachers.

Film-making, Schools & the MEA

London Nautical School child & teachers – MEA Conference, Feb 2012. Photo: Chris Waugh

February 2012 – I gave a workshop at the Media Education Association conference held at The British Film Institute and the aim was to claim film-making as an art in its own right and to inspire teachers to inspire children to think like film-makers (although in this instance, and gratifyingly so, the children were inspiring the teachers). We looked at the various sociocultural benefits this might bring as regards living in a digital environment – both embracing it and in some ways mitigating against it by looking closely at the physical world as well as the affordances of the visual medium.

I gave a detailed account of how the Cinémathèque project works (see Cent Ans de Jeunesse 2012) with its ‘pure’ approach to the cinematic. The delegates were tasked with a film exercise, prior to which there was a Q & A with 3 impressive Year 8 film makers from a state school local to the BFI – London Nautical School (LNS) – who are currently participating in the Cinémathèque project. They are mentored by Chris Waugh, the intuitive and pioneering English teacher from LNS. Here’s the exercise brief, which is to be viewed within the framework of this year’s Cent Ans de Jeunesse theme – the role of the real in fiction:

From a fixed camera position: film a person waiting for someone who eventually joins him/her. Choose a location that enables an interaction between fiction and elements of reality. (1 ½ – 2 mins duration). Time allocation: 15 mins.

I’m of the opinion that students could and should have a voice in arenas such as the MEA conference and that a good dose of practice as well as theory never goes amiss! The clips below might make more sense with a quick read of this script of the session. They can also be seen here on the BFI project blog with comments on each clip and more photos:

Mark Levermore, a practitioner who attended the workshop, had this to say in a follow-up email:

Just a quick note to say thanks again for a great workshop on Saturday – if that was really your first one then well done indeed – a lovely mix of theory and practical and inspirational thoughts …

Yours was refreshingly not about students and teachers doing media studies but rather about how film is used as a confidence booster, complimentary discipline and scope-widening tool for pupils all across the curriculum. The kids were a living shining example of how the arts can transform the level of engagement and learning potential of pupils – and if Aadi is the future of political thought about the arts then we are in safe hands!

Thanks for these thoughts Mark!

The Cultural – “made through our minds”

The boys describe their film as an exploration of ‘small man syndrome’ and it was part of the Cinémathèque brief to cut out a significant scene of the film at the end, so as to create an enigma and play with constraints. Interestingly, the boys had chosen to lose the fight scene even before this part of the brief had been revealed. This is significant because when the LNS boys started their filming activities two years ago, whilst elaborating the theme of camera movement they enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to film explicit fight sequences in the BFI corridors. Their decision to cut such a scene and leave it to the imagination of the audience could signal progress in terms of a more sophisticated and subtle approach to film making. See Tim’s edit, which was screened in Paris (4 minutes).

It could be that through critical viewing of film clips throughout the project (for example, the Cohen brothers, “No Country for Old Men”, see blog post and the direction of film maker, Emma Sullivan, their output was influenced by the stylistic qualities of independent film-making as distinct from the conventions of mainstream Hollywood movies or TV drama, styles of output which, according to Alain Bergala, overtly show everything. The electronic sampling that makes up the soundtrack, however, was Tim’s own personal choice – an indication that he enjoys the bass driven beats of contemporary dub-step. The coupling of external cultural influences and internalised popular culture is constitutive of Williams’ “lived culture”.

I started this Cultural section with an examination of the style and content of the boys’ film in order to introduce how Williams’ “lived culture” evolves into “recorded culture” and media education’s vital role in ensuring young people’s participation in that process. Drawing on Hodge and Kress, Burn & Durran also re-assess the “selective tradition” – the third dimension of Williams’ tripartite structure of culture – concluding that:

“culturally valued texts become so through a historical accretion of competing commentary.” (2007:10)

Far from being separate phenomena, the lived, the recorded and the selective are intertwined, even more so in the digital age, feeding off each other in a hybrid, undisciplined, barrier-busting manner.  As mentioned earlier, popular music seems to have found a legitimate, celebratory route to genre-bending, most recently seen and heard in the collaboration between the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and Dubstep/Drum n Bass outfit ‘Nero’ but when it comes to the educational sphere, it seems there are too many diverging agendas, value structures and competing forces for progressive media education to gain smooth passage.

At certain stages of the Paris project various tensions manifested themselves: disparate discourses scraped up against each other likes tectonic plates. Emma, the teacher/film maker, was concerned about how much input to give the boys and how much latitude? How much re-editing of imperfect work versus letting it be? How much to consider professional reputation – given the context of its distribution – set against autonomous student-empowerment? How much teacherly order as opposed to relaxed spontaneity in lessons? How much technical teaching and how much independent experimentation? For the CLC evaluation submitted to Paris, Emma commented on some of these tensions:

It is always tempting to improve their work – but I think this would be a mistake. They have to learn that it is hard work and you have to be very organised and precise with film making. If I tidied up their edit and added better music/sound I don’t think they would have understood necessarily why it was better. This film was entirely of their own making, and I think therefore their next film will be better for it.

Bob, the self-elected student spokesperson, at first expressed dissatisfaction with the highly constrained parameters of the Cinémathèque film exercises – for example: ‘A passes through a space and gives something to B, all in close-up’ – interpreting the French pedagogical approach as mistrust in his and his peers’ versatility as young film-makers:

Bob: … they’re trying to direct us in the right way but in that I think they’ve got a low opinion of what we can, us as teenagers, can view in film and what we can create in film and by having that structure it kind of breaks down our imagination a bit … I think it would also be more personal to us cos it would be made through our minds.

Later however he contradicts himself by saying that perhaps they needed to fulfill the stringent briefs in order to nurture the creative empowerment that would fuel their future endeavours:

Bob: But if I hadn’t done this first then maybe I wouldn’t have had the perception to do something aside from action; but now that I have done it, I’d like a little bit more space … I’m glad we had those boundaries cos now we know we can do something more.

During the mid-project screening and the final screening, both in Paris, the audience asked questions concerning the students’ choice of sound. Over a couple of the UK films, students from LNS and St. Catherine’s – a Catholic Girls Secondary in Bexleyheath, one of the three UK schools involved – had lain a heavy electronic soundtrack. It was suggested by some that this sound choice might be less appropriate for the project as a whole which demanded more subtlety, artistry and editorial guidance. Jack Hayter, the teacher/film-maker at St. Catherine’s, was animated in his defence of the girls’ work, asserting their right to interpret the theme as they saw fit.

Similarly, Tim was defensive when asked to comment on his choice of electronic samples from the Garageband library, stating that “there wasn’t much time or much choice”. There seemed to be a clash between the French preference for a nuanced, more impressionistic style of film making and the British contingent’s inclination towards ‘freedom’ of expression – albeit drawn from the rigid parameters set by global software developers and informed by popular culture. Such are the more granular observations in relation to shifts in “lived” cultural trends, however, what may endure in “recorded culture” is the Cent Ans de Jeunesse project itself.

The Cinémathèque requires strict adherence to the “règles du jeu” – the stipulated filming exercises and an in-depth exploration of the year’s theme – as well as contributions to the French blog indicating progress. This traditional structured approach seems at odds with current media practices but is extraordinarily productive. Hundreds of young international film makers congregate, watch one anothers films to the same brief and discuss their work in a multilingual context: this is an arresting cultural achievement.  An achievement which continues to make full use of the Cinémathèque’s institutional gravitas and bring Alain Bergala’s annual vision to fruition. Perhaps only an institution with a sense of something to preserve would conceive of such a unique and ambitious educational project.

At the risk of extolling the redemptive powers of media production processes, it has been a privilege to trace a discernible path between the international teachers/film makers’ thematic input session in November 2010 (see Parisian lecture notes) and several months later, relate that to the social development and scholarly ambitions of a formerly excluded child. See simon_lambeth_interview.mp3 @ 27:40 mins. Email me for access to this full audio interview.

The Creative – “it has to flow”

Bob: um and I think when you’re editing, the decision you make, if you look back it has to like flow with the rest of the film, it has to flow with how the characters are, what their personalities are like, how do they act …

It is pleasing to hear Bob use the same conceit selected for my account in his description of flowing material. The boys are copying the conventions of continuity editing, which for some is an all-absorbing process, and for which the conditions for Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow” are perfectly pitched. Bob implies that through a process of revision, the organic whole will coalesce, not just visually but also conceptually. This is despite his initial reluctance to get on with the technical task of editing his cut. See: lns_shoot_editing.mov @ 2:00 mins

… You gotta have it like mixed up with lots, you gotta vary it up, cos if you don’t in editing then it’s just going to be boring to watch with nothing to catch your eye… I think the most difficult thing in editing are the tiny decisions you make, not the decision to put this shot in, it’s like where to cut it, how long do you have the scene for,  I mean those little ones that we don’t think about as much are really difficult for me to decide cos I don’t know what’s perceived to be right, it’s like unknown.

Interviewer: So what have you got to rely on?

Bob: I think your gut helps a lot …

Here Bob seems to perfectly encapsulate Sennett’s notion of the “intuitive leap” (2008:209) outlined earlier in this account. It is the creative process of sequencing “twined presence(s)” (ibid) of at least two elements and making a series of tiny decisions based on gut feeling. His sticking point seems to be his capacity for risk-taking – to allow himself to feel the “surprise” (ibid) of a unique juxtaposition and the “gravity” (ibid), in the sense of ‘fall’, of a constraint. His potential for spontaneity possibly suffers from his desire to be thorough, as evidenced in the transcript and in the clip of him editing, see lns_shoot_editing.mov @ 2:30 mins. This is the facilitator’s cue to steer him through that unknown territory and encourage faith in improvisation.

Lyall’s clip was the most revealing in terms of learning progression and Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow”. An apathetic, seemingly under-confident, resigned attitude changed over the course of a few minutes to one of engagement and pride in his work, to the extent that he offered his edit as the one to be viewed by the class at the end of the session. See Csikszentmihalyi’s model of suggested levels of progression towards a ‘flowing’ state of productivity.

Coaxing Lyall into action could also demonstrate the Vygotskian principle of the externalisation of higher abstract thinking through guided experimental play. It may also be the case that talking and performing to camera facilitated Lyall’s passage from half-hearted, defensive group member (at this particular stage in the film making process at any rate, as elsewhere he made positive contributions and enjoyed the role of spokesperson) to assertive, creative and participative editor. See lns_shoot_editing.mov @ 22:10 mins.

The Critical – “more on your mind”

The LNS boys have had the benefit of two years of intensive production work with a professional film maker. Having produced 4 short films in total, they have an advanced awareness of the structure of film, the processes of production, the vocabulary and the realms of the cinematically possible. In comparison with many contemporary school film projects, theirs was privileged access. I wanted to discover what residual critical insights remained once the tripods had been collapsed, the final cut was carved and the applause had died down.

I interviewed the 5 main players in the library of their school asking largely unspecific, broad ranged questions. See interview transcript and interview schedule and a link to the full audio interview on Soundcloud.

The questions were designed to assess the way they felt about the production process. I also refer below to videoed footage of the boys whilst editing and have produced a 22 minute film (embedded link below) with time indicators for ease of reference. Often discussions around the affective were good pointers to both a heightened critical awareness and also to a puncturing of the rhetoric around some people’s perception of all young people’s inherent fascination with and aptitude for digital media representations.

When asked what they hoped to get out of the project:

John: I hoped that I’d be able to get some experience … not so much experience but erm sort of knowing what goes on behind the big films and stuff and such.

Furstenau’s concept of “access to the movie-dream” (2009:7) is in evidence here. A few of the boys mentioned ‘experience’ and ‘skills’ which to me suggests they have internalised ‘school-speak’ about good opportunities for job experience or “credentializing” (Buckingham, 2003:189); but he quickly reverts to a more personal motivation.

Lyall: Erm, I think I thought I was gonna learn a bit.. some more acting skills …yeah… maybe a bit more filming as well. I was intrigued.

For Lyall film is about acting and his preference for ‘top deck’ rather than ‘engine room’ activities is illustrated by the manner in which he responds to questions. Whilst being interviewed he seems to ‘deliver his lines’ rather than converse.

Tim: Um, I just wanted to make a film … so…..(pause)

Tim is comfortable with “synaesthetic experience” (Sefton-Green 2005:109), he displayed the attributes of a ‘natural’ audiovisual choreographer. It was his cut that was selected early on in the editing process for screening in Paris. He is a boy of few words, no gloss here, just the simple facts suggesting some organic impulse he doesn’t fully comprehend himself. Perhaps his talent is for assimilating and re-presenting cultural norms.

Interviewer: What inspired you to want to do that?

Tim: I dunno … I just….(pause)

Lyall: I think Tim means like, he was interested like by the film, I mean so he just wanted to see how it was like to make one,

Lyall interjects, assuming a spokesperson’s role and doesn’t really add much, except his voice to the recording.

Bob: I knew what I wanted to do, I think like, I wanted to gain experience from it I can use in later life,  even if I didn’t go into the film industry … I think in a way it helps you in all aspects once you’ve done it and I think it really broadens your perspective on life… your attitude on something … if n like your visual interpretation of stuff is different.

Bob is the most mature and articulate member of the group and assumed the role of Director from the start. Again there is a reference to gaining experience but qualified this time in relation to life. By using such words as perspective, attitude, and interpretation, Bob seems to have an understanding of context and the constructed nature of media texts. His father is a film-maker and so his confident manner may spring from his own family context.

Interviewer:: So what… how do you think this whole experience has er, might have influenced other areas of your life…?

Bob: Er, like, I think if I wanted to think of a certain image or something … I know I’d think of that image and then through the film workshop the mentors that we had would tell us how to do that or a shortcut to make it look like this and so it makes you think about your art more and what you want people to feel from what you’re doing, so…

Bob again displays intellectual acuity as regards the power of editing to influence audience perception. He suggests that guidance from film-making experts helps to realise his vision to affect the audience in specific ways. See Bob talking about the editing process and the audience: lns_shoot_editing.mov @ 2:45 mins.

lns_shoot_editing from Michelle Cannon on Vimeo.

This level of heightened awareness illustrates Buckingham’s notion of de-centering mentioned earlier as well as the value of time spent articulating and finding solutions to design problems.

Interviewer:: So the other person?

Bob: Yeah, also, I think like erm if I was to do English or something, just working with stories and stuff which make you … with your … more on your mind and so you might want to progress that further.

As well as influencing his art output, Bob mentions that film-making has developed his storytelling instincts in English. The phrase more on your mind is telling and illustrates what Reid et al transposed from the context of writing to that of editing: “the act of juggling a number of simultaneous constraints” (2002:76, drawing on Flower and Hayes).

Lyall: I think it makes me look at stories in a whole kind of new way by watching films and seeing how they’re made, it makes me understand like stories and films, just like, just that bit more and I kind of think like that’s a good skill to have.

Lyall echoes Bob’s comments and suggests that such a skill is interdisciplinary. I (audio-)interviewed Morlette Lyndsey, (LNS English teacher and lecturer at the Institute of Education) and she corroborated the fact that Bob in particular brought a filmic sense to his narratives using advanced visualisation to enrich his writing. See an example of his written prose which she maintains is substantially influenced by his involvement in film production. Their task was to put themselves in the shoes of a much older person recalling an event from the past in monologue format. Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4. She suggests that immersion in film production processes inspired an evocative piece of writing which reads like the opening voice-over of a film, where there is a strong cinematic sense to the rhythm, the nuances of accent, the detail and the description of a thirties New Orleans jazz club.

She encouraged him to read Zusack’s “The Book Thief” and its portrayal of Death’s perspective. She felt that he may not have been motivated to read over 500 pages without the inspiration and framing of a filmic point of view. Ref. morlette4april2011.mp3 @ 9:20 > 11:20 mins.

I asked them to tell me about how it feels to be editing:

Lyall: Me personally I dread editing … I’m sure probably that no-one here shares my opinion, but I just hate editing

Lyall makes clear his feelings about editing which in many ways debunks what is commonly perceived as a universal teen readiness to ‘get at the computer and start creating’. But this attitude has to be balanced against other possible contributory factors. It could be that: with extended access the novelty factor has worn off for him; he feels others in the group are better at it than him and so opts out; editing detracts from his identity as an actor; he enjoys contradicting what has been packaged as a positive experience or his level of self-direction is not as honed as the others.

Interviewer: That’s absolutely valid, give me why.

Lyall: I think, I’m not expecting it to be all action-packed, I just expect myself to be doing something like practical in the film, like I know editing is practical as well but I just prefer to be doing something like a stunt man or just being an actor, being an editor is just not my preferred position.

Interviewer: Could you be more precise about what it is that you just don’t like about it? I accept that you prefer to be in front of the camera…

Lyall: just the sitting down on the, you know, computer when you could be, you know, outside filming a shot again so it’s finally good and just.. I know this is kind of a stupid thing to say, but I honestly… I know that there wouldn’t be no film without no editing but I just don’t see the real fun in it.

References to stunt men and practical action may indicate a need for physicality but observation and research data recorded later in this account contradict this assumption. I feel that Lyall would benefit from a different pedagogic approach offering more guidance and encouragement which would focus his powers of reflection and embody it on the screen.

Interviewer: OK. Does anyone disagree? … (laughing) OK, go for it.

Mali: Erm, well, yeah, editing’s not really supposed to be fun, it’s just something you have to do in order to make the film look actually good, or stuff like that.

Mali’s agreement with Lyall is further evidence to suggest that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to media design processes. He needs more scaffolding than the software alone could offer and would have benefitted from concentrated one-to-one attention to move beyond mere sequencing of clips to adding more complex cut-aways, shot length variation and reaction shots.

Tim: Erm well I enjoy editing, some people hate it, yeah and adding in all the music and putting the film together

Tim makes reference to the composite nature of film and the pleasures of integrating the whole. There’s a marked difference between interviewing Tim at the interface and interviewing Tim … well… anywhere else. His increased confidence, sense of purpose and complete lack of self-consciousness in front of the screen is striking. See embedded link above: lns_shoot_editing.mov @ 4:14 mins

Interviewer: yeah and what do you feel when you’re actually in there, doing it, looking at the screen?

Tim: I just think of what could be done better, maybe we need to film that again or something.

Tim’s comment reveals the open-ended nature of the design process, the potential to keep on revising and refining. Tim’s speed of working is impressive and although he’s economical with his words he displays a dynamic, dialogic interplay with the screen. As Sefton-Green writes:

“digital software shows itself as an accessible social process locking a kind of ‘pedagogy’ into the relationship between screen and user .. a dialogue between producer and production” (2005:109)

Learners like Tim signal the need for a deeper understanding of the processes of selecting and combining from a database, in short, the anatomy of software and its impact on the imagination. Buckingham also raises the question of whether:

“the level of control afforded by digital technology somehow automatically encourages a more systematic approach” (2003:185See embedded link above: lns_shoot_editing.mov @ 4:30 mins

Interviewer: Right OK, and you know when you make decisions, editing decisions … what do you think informs whether it’s a good or a bad editing decision?

Tim: whether people like it!

Like Bob, Tim is aware of audience enjoyment and interpretation. Although this reveals a certain need for endorsement, over time and with mass accumulated approval this may well morph into confidence with his own style of output. The boys exemplify Jenkins’ assertion that:

“Media education needs to be framed for participants, a role distinct from yet closely related to both producers and consumers as they were classically conceived.” Jenkins (2011)

John: When you feel like it’s not, you’ve got to like be, you’ve got to have a mindset, when you’ve got to think you’re an audience member who’s watching the film, and you’ve got to think about that… is this gonna look really cheesy or is this gonna look decent when they’re watching it cos there’s some shots like .. like making people cringe…

John also articulates the complexity of achieving something original, plausible and engaging that avoids cliché and conventional cheese. Feeling when a shot looks decent whilst rationally maintaining the mindset of the audience is the ultimate aspiration of the editor. See embedded link above: lns_shoot_editing.mov @ 2:54 mins. Indeed this could be said of all creative media output.

Case Study A: Cinémathèque / BFI Project / Lambeth City Learning Centre

Boys from The London Nautical School (LNS) and Lambeth Academy (LA) took part in a pan-European (and beyond) film production programme originally conceived by Alain Bergala at the Cinémathèque in Paris where it has flourished for several years.  One of the distinguishing features of this film project was its focus on the language of film. A yearly curriculum centres on one aspect of cinematic ‘grammar’, be it camera movement, colour, light, depth of field or the more conceptual – hiding/revealing (montrer/cacher) – as was this year’s theme.  With professional film-maker, Emma Sullivan, as their mentor the students experimented with a few highly structured film exercises which were then posted on the blog and also on the French blog.

Ultimately, after two terms, the participating primary and secondary schools (from Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, the UK & Brazil) submitted a film of up to 8 minutes which interpreted and captured the relevant theme conceptually and cinematically. Over three days in June 2011 the films were screened at the Cinémathèque, attended by the students who made them. On many levels, the project is ideal for the purposes of examining the impact of media production on young people’s social and cultural participation as well as on their creative and critical engagement.

Case Study Settings

Three of my case studies came out of a serendipitous meeting with Mark Reid, the Head of Education at the British Film Institute, in October 2010. I was looking for case study material and he was keen to have current school partnership projects with strong multimodal components tracked, documented and in one case, evaluated.

London Nautical School (LNS) is a state secondary school with over 650 boys located in central London on the south bank of the Thames, near Waterloo. In terms of infrastructure, most of the original early 20th century buildings are still in use, some listed as Grade 2, and the school has a well-thumbed, ‘old-school’ air about it characterized by vertiginous stair wells and peeling paint. The school is a Specialist Sports College and all boys pursue Nautical Studies at Key Stage 3. In 2010 42% of students gained 5 or more GCSE’s including English and Maths. Once a week from November 2010 to May 2011 a small group of mainly higher achieving Year 9 boys attended a film production after school project based at Lambeth City Learning Centre in Clapham. Some had attended the same course the previous year.

Another group of similar aged boys from Lambeth Academy (LA) in Clapham attended the same project. Some had film experience from the previous year but neither group had met each other. Lambeth Academy is a new co-educational secondary school with £25 million worth of investment. In 2011 36% (ibid) of students gained 5 or more GCSE’s including English and Maths. Similar to LNS in terms of ethnic diversity, the difference with these particular boys was that they had all attended the Special Educational Needs department of LA at various stages, with issues related to autism and/or behavioural problems.

The last two case studies involve state primary schools: Telferscot Primary School (TPS) – a mixed, multi-ethnic state school in south London with a mixture of middle-class and low-income families and St Elizabeth Primary School (SEPS) – a mixed, diverse, catholic state school in Bethnal Green in a socially deprived area of Tower Hamlets, East London, wherein a significant proportion are white, low-income families. The TPS project was a collaborative, multimodal learning experience with Year 4 children, based at the BFI & Southbank Centre, spread over half a term for two days a week; my role here was to observe and report back to the BFI on learning outcomes. As St Elizabeth’s is my part-time place of work, the SEPS case study was my own multimodal poetry/film project with Year 6 children identified as having low academic ability, for one afternoon a week spread over several weeks.

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