Norfolk and Suffolk students to visit First World War battlefields

Students from the region are set for a poignant trip to some of the First World War's battlefields.

Students from the region are set for a poignant trip to some of the First World War's battlefields. - Credit: PA

Schools from Norfolk and Suffolk will be travelling to northern France this weekend to show pupils at first hand about the sacrifices made by the troops in the First World War.

A £5.3m government learning project aims to teach secondary school children about the First World War and Britain and the Commonwealth's role in it – by showing them where the men fought and fell.

Under the scheme, two pupils and one teacher from every maintained secondary school in England have the opportunity to go on a four-day tour of the battlefields – such as the Somme and Verdun – and take part in remembrance ceremonies on the former Western Front.

The visits make up part of the events planned around the centenary of the First World War, starting in 2013 and running through to 2019.

Children who miss the trip will also benefit when pupils and teachers who have taken part in the project pass on what they have learned in France through the so-called Legacy 110 project, in which they must share their experience with 110 people through commemoration projects, like collecting photographs and uncovering local stories, in their schools and local communities.

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The First World War is already a compulsory history subject for children aged 11 to 14, and Legacy 110 is designed to encourage students to reach out into their local communities and create a lasting legacy for the First World War centenary.

Broadland MP Keith Simpson, who advised the prime minister on plans to commemorate the First World War and is also a Commonwealth War Graves commissioner, said: 'David Cameron was very keen to stress the involvement of young people. After all, it was 100 years ago and they have no direct links with the war in the way that older people, who may have had grandfathers fighting, do.

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'A range of schemes was considered, but one of the main ones was to enable as many young people as possible to visit one of the battlefields on the Western Front.

'The idea is that the visits will encourage younger people to think about the nature of the war and maybe link in with local communities and local history groups that have done research so that some may be able to trace their ancestors.'

The 2016 visits will have a special relevance for students and teachers as they coincide with the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. On the first day, July 1, 1916, the British army suffered its worst day in history, with some 50,000 casualties, including men from the Norfolk and Suffolk regiments.

A spokesman for First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours said: 'During 2016 there will be special emphasis placed on commemorating the Battle of the Somme and its strategic importance.

'Students will visit battlefield sites, Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorials and cemeteries on the Somme including Thiepval Memorial, as well as Newfoundland Memorial Park at Beaumont Hamel, the Norfolk cemetery, Ulster Tower and Thiepval Wood.

'These sites will allow the students to study the impact and consequences of the battle. Going out to the battlefields and seeing the landscape and the history of the war makes it easier for students to visualise the scale of the war and the lives lost.'

During this weekend's tour, East Anglian pupils will also attend the poignant Last Post ceremony in Ypres, Belgium, which takes place under the Menin Gate every night of the year when local buglers sound the Last Post before a minute's silence to reflect on the sacrifice of those lost.

The educational programme includes: free online resources; free teacher development (face-to-face or online); free four-day Western Front tour for two students and a teacher; teaching and learning centred around enquiry questions, with on-tour exposure to experts, a serving soldier from the British Army and experts from the International Guild of Battlefield Guides to facilitate exploration of different perspectives; and an opportunity to deliver a student-led Legacy 110 national community commemoration project, with a certificate and commemorative pin badge awarded on completion.

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