Greg Dyke, chairman of the BFI, spoke at the BFI London Film Festival awards tonight and reiterated the organisation’s call for film education to be essential in schools.

In the recent Forward Plan introduced by the BFI, education and audience development was one of three key areas of concentration.

Dkye’s statement tonight:

“We currently have a Government with radical plans to change the way the vast bulk of the population is educated in England with an emphasis, it seems, on going back to traditional subjects and more traditional teaching methods. Whilst I fully understand the Government’s aims I just want to say that in the U Tube age it would be ridiculous not to use the moving image as a means of teaching, and ridiculous not to promote the understanding of film as part of the school curriculum.

This year is the great Dickens anniversary and we finish the Festival tomorrow night with the new version of Great Expectations but just ask yourselves how many people in this country today were introduced to Dickens by reading the novels and how many by watching films or, for my generation, all those late Sunday afternoon serials on the BBC? I suspect the answer is that the latter were far more important than the former in introducing people to Dickens.

“Now such words won’t make me popular amongst education traditionalists.You can almost hear the nay-sayers now, opining that film is simply a form of entertainment and has no place in the classroom. They are completely wrong. To quote Heather Stewart, the BFI’s Cultural Director, speaking at the launch of the BFI’s major season of Hitchcock’s work a few weeks back: ‘The idea of popular cinema somehow being capable of being great art at the same time as being entertaining is still a problem for some people. As a result Shakespeare is on the national curriculum, Hitchcock is not.’

She’s right. It’s barmy if we are going to restrict the minds of the young while in school only to the conventional learning approach and only to traditional scholarly works in an era when the medium of choice for millions of them is the moving image. The Government has given real support to the cultural industries which it sees as the growth industries of tomorrow. If that’s the case it’s vital that film, art and creativity are taught alongside english, maths and computer studies because it’s the knowledge of all these essential subjects which is needed for kids who want to go into post production, special effects, games and animation.

We all know that film has the power to transform lives and to shape thinking. At the BFI we want to ensure that everyone  can benefit from the learning opportunities that film provides and that they are able develop a lifelong relationship with film.  And we believe it starts in the schools.

So over the next four years we plan to invest £28 million of Lottery funding in a new film education offering for 5-19 year olds. It will be available online and we aim to make it available in every school in the United Kingdom, we want to make it available to every pupil.

But the good news is that this approach won’t only improve learning in this country, it will also help our industry. Film in the UK is in a really strong place right now. Box office revenues are up, production is up and film contributes a staggering £4.6 billion to Britain’s GDP.  The number of jobs in the industry has increased; our film exports are greater than our imports. But if we want British film to be more successful we also have to think of building audiences. The evidence is clear. It shows that children who watch and understand films when they are young are three times more likely to go to the cinema when they are an adult. So by nurturing a love for film and cinema at an early age, we embed the cinema going habit which will help ensure future audiences for film in Britain and of course we also encourage a new generation of talented people who want to work in our industry.”