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John Randall Primary School, Madeley

Year 6 pupils from John Randall Primary School looking at types of war memorials © Lucy Millson/Watkins/Historic England, 2018
Year 6 pupils from John Randall Primary School looking at when war memorials were created © Lucy Millson/Watkins/Historic England, 2018
Yr 6 pupil from John Randall Primary School recording names from Madeley war memorial to research © Lucy Millson/Watkins/Historic England, 2018
  • County name: West Midlands
  • Group/School name: John Randall Primary School
  • Age group: 5 - 11
  • Group type: Year 6

In collaboration with Historic England’s Heritage Schools Programme, War Memorials Trust’s Learning Officer has agreed to carry out a school visit or training session in each of the Heritage Schools Regions during the last year of the First World War centenary.  When discussing a possible visit with the  Local Heritage Education Manager for the West Midlands, he suggested a primary school in Madelely near Telford who had demonstrated a keen interest in their local heritage.  Our Learning Officer spent the whole day with the year 6 pupils at John Randall Primary School which included a visit to the local war memorial (www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/202320). 

Upon arriving at the school, our Learning Officer asked the pupils to consider what a war memorial is while they looked at a variety of images.  Pupils were encouraged to come up with a definition in their table groups which they could then share with the rest of class.  One pupil explained that war memorials are “a monument that will stay there in time to remind us of the people who fought for our freedom.”  The pupils were then shown a variety of war memorials in the local area including Jackfield and Coalport war memorial bridge (www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/109959) which replaced the Coalport ferry that had previously carried the workers from their houses in Jackfield to factories in Coalport. The bridge was paid for by public subscription which was raised by a committee of residents from both sides of the river.

The session then developed so that pupils could find out how many war memorials there are in the UK, when the majority of war memorial were created and why this was the case as well as the issues which now face war memorials given that so many are nearly 100 years old.  The class did a phenomenal job at estimating the number of war memorials in the UK as every single pupil guessed the correct number of 100,000.  After discussing the issues facing war memorials now the pupils were shown how to carry out a condition survey in preparation for the visit to the local war memorial.

While walking to Madeley war memorial, the pupils pointed out a number of points of local heritage to our Learning Officer which was very interesting.  Upon first arriving at the site of the war memorial the pupil were asked to describe the memorial itself.  One pupil noted that the dates for the First World War on the memorial were written as 1914-1919 and it was explained that this may have been done for two reasons: firstly because the war did not end until very late in 1918 so some local men may not have returned home until 1919 and secondly because the Treaty of Versailles (the peace treaty which was drawn up following the Armistice of November 1918) was not signed and did not come into effect until June1919.  The pupils were told a little bit about the history of the war memorial and then carried out a condition survey.  The pupils worked incredibly well in their teams, gave careful thought to the survey and ensured that all of their judgements had photographs to support them.  While at the memorial, pupils also collected the names of people who they wanted to find out more about in the afternoon.

When walking back to the school, the pupils took a detour to look at the original location of the war memorial.  A proposal was put forward in 1968 to move the memorial from the middle of the crossroads of the junction where it had originally been erected in order to improve visibility for drivers.  The pupils were able to see first-hand how busy the junction is today and also noted that many cars drove straight over the roundabout.  They decided this would have put the war memorial at a high level of risk if it had remained where it had original been erected.  When asked if the new location of the memorial was a good choice the pupils decided it was and gave the following reasons:

  • A quiet area where people could remember
  • Good central point in the village
  • It is easy to walk to so everyone can access it

During the first part of the afternoon, pupils discussed their condition levels from the surveys they had carried out and uploaded this to War Memorials Online (www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/202320).  The pupils were very persuasive in their arguments for a particular condition and gave good reasons to support these.  They decided to select unknown for damage/issues in the last 5 years as although they thought the answer was probably no, they decided they didn’t have any evidence for this.

The rest of the afternoon was spent using the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database and the Ancestry website to find out more about the people named on the war memorial.  For some, this activity required a lot of perseverance as it wasn’t always straightforward to obtain the information they wanted to find out.  Some of the pupils found out some really interesting information about their chosen person.

It was an absolute pleasure to visit and work with the year 6 pupils at John Randall Primary School.  The pupils were really engaged with the activities and acknowledged both the historical and emotional significance of their local war memorial.  Following the visit the pupils asked if they could write to their local council requesting improvements to be made to the memorial.  Some also stated they would like to work with Historic England or join War Memorials Trust in the future so the visit has sparked an interest which will hopefully continue into adulthood.

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