Channel 4’s Paralympics coverage could be studied in schools

Friday 16 Sep 2016

GCSE, AS and A-level students could learn about Channel 4's groundbreaking coverage of the Paralympic Games under plans by exam board AQA.

Students taking AQA's new Media Studies qualifications from 2017 will analyse the representation of particular groups and communities in the media. The new, more academic GCSE, AS and A-level courses will help young people to develop knowledge and understanding of how the media portray events, issues, individuals and social groups.

Channel 4's expanded coverage of the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games – together with spin-off programming like comedy show The Last Leg – has contributed to greatly-increased representation of people with disabilities in the media. This makes it a likely case study for students looking at the topic.

Sandra Allan, AQA Head of Curriculum for Creative Arts, said: 

"Channel 4 has not only taken the profile of the Paralympics and similar events to a whole new level, but it's put shows like The Last Leg permanently at the heart of its schedule. It's a prime case study for how the media can represent disabled people in a way that doesn't smack of box-ticking, and it's something I'm sure students would really enjoy learning about.

"Media Studies must grow just like the media and technology, helping students make sense of the constant stream of media that's now available to them. The topic of representation will get students looking carefully at how the media can affect and reflect society."

Other potential case studies include the recent BBC television drama series Undercover. The show made headlines for being unusual as a UK prime-time drama with black actors in lead roles, where the colour of their skin was not central to the plot.

At AS and A-level, students will have the opportunity to study the texts of renowned cultural theorists Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy.

As part of this area of study, they will also learn about stereotypes: how they become established and how they may vary over time. Students will also look closely at the language used by the media to create narratives as news stories unfold.

At GCSE, AS and A-level, students will consider all elements of the media – including newspapers, film, social media and advertising – under the social, cultural, historical and political contexts in which they are produced and received.

The four key areas of study will be:

  • language
  • representation
  • industries
  • audiences.

Keith Daniell, Chair of The Media Group, an award-winning creative agency, said:

"In today's increasingly connected world, an understanding of the media and media platforms is essential. Studying these new GCSE, AS and A-level Media Studies qualifications will help students to develop critical thinking skills and open up opportunities for them in the future."

The new draft plans for AQA's new GCSE, AS and A-level Media Studies courses, which will be available to teach from September 2017, have been submitted to the regulator Ofqual for accreditation.