School visits – Worth the hassle? by @MrHistoryUK

When I decided to arrange our school’s first World War I Battlefields visit I was often presented with the questions of ‘how can you be bothered with all of that hassle?’ or ‘how does this fit into the school’s budget?’ Perhaps I was naïve, thinking that arranging a visit would be relatively easy and that once deposits had been paid that everything else would fall into place. I can assure you that this was not the case, but I would still wholeheartedly recommend taking your pupils out of the classroom to enhance their learning.

This is a re-blog post originally posted by @MrHistoryUK and published with kind permission.

The original post can be found here.

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Just to give a little background to the visit that I arranged. It was to be our school’s first History visit to take place outside of the UK, a daunting task but one I was excited to undertake. I had visited the Battlefields when I was at school, in fact it was that visit which sparked my passion for History, which in turn led me to becoming a teacher, it is fair to say then that I absolutely loved it. Would I enjoy being the man responsible for the success of the visit? That remained to be seen. I started by researching the companies who provide Battlefields tours to schools and it was decided that we would use Anglia Tours. We decided to use their services as it gave us the accompaniment of a fully trained guide for the duration of the visit, and this is a decision which paid off handsomely. We then decided that we would offer the visit to pupils who study GCSE History in years 10 & 11, we were soon oversubscribed (phew…).

In the intervening months between deposits being collected and us actually leaving on the visit our wonderful finance office took care of the majority of paperwork, leaving me relatively stress-free (until we had pupils drop out).  A month or so before we were due to leave Anglia sent one of their guides to our school and he delivered a thoroughly comprehensive presentation to the parents; explaining where the pupils will be going, why those sites in particular and informing them of timings etc.

So onto the actual visit itself. Was it a success? An absolutely massive triumph!  The places the pupils went to were awe-inspiring. To name but a few we visited Newfoundland Park, which is home to the majestic Caribou statue which is calling its young home, a truly heart-breaking memorial. Tyne Cot cemetery, where over 11,000 soldiers are buried, which is a stark visualisation of the destructive power of war.  The Menin Gate, with its accompanying Last Post service which reduced many to tears. On top of visiting these wonderful sites our guides also gave the pupils a great sense of the effect of the war on individuals and their families. They would do this through this use of stories about soldiers who fell and were remembered in some way, whether that be with a gravestone, or for their name to be etched on the walls of the Menin Gate.

Upon our return the pupils were full of praise. Many went as far as to say it was the best weekend of their lives. It had stoked their passion for history in a way which we could never have done in the classroom, and we received many emails from parents expressing their gratitude for giving their children this unique opportunity.

So is it worth the hassle? Yes!!! Alongside the pupils saying that they had found it worthwhile I can genuinely say it was a real pleasure to see the students so enthused and engaged. While school budgets are getting squeezed we need to keep hold of these special moments otherwise or pupils are going to miss out on what could be a life affirming visit. Also, if your school is demanding any further justification for a visit (surely not…) remind them that the new GCSE has a study of the historical environment in it, and many of which make use of the Battlefields of World War One. Surely they can’t refuse then…

 Image source: By Steve Parker on Flickr under (CC BY 2.0)

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