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St Thomas Leesfield Primary School, Oldham

  • County name: Greater Manchester
  • Group/School name: St Thomas Leesfield Primary School
  • Age group: 5 - 11
  • Group type: Year 6

St Thomas Leesfield Primary School requested a visit for their year 6 class who were doing a short two week topic on World War I after their October half term.  The topic fell in the weeks either side of Remembrance Sunday and would give the pupils a better understanding of Remembrance and the conflict which led to two thirds of all the war memorials in the UK being created.  The visit was carried out in the week following Remembrance Sunday and included sessions on what are war memorials and war memorial design and also a visit to the local war memorial in Lees Cemetery.

The session began with the year 6 pupils sharing some of the things they had looked at or found out so far in their World War I topic.  It was clear that it was a topic which they were really engaged with.  The first question posed by our Learning Officer was “What do you think a war memorial is?” Pupils were encouraged to discuss their thoughts in small groups and also had a pack of photographs to support their discussions.  The responses shared were very insightful.  Photographs of war memorials in the local area were then shared with the class along with some information about each one.

Pupils were then asked to identify the number of war memorials in the UK.  From the choices given, the majority of the class selected 100,000 from the choices available which was an excellent estimate.  A timeline was then used to illustrate when war memorials were created.  Pupils were surprised to learn that 2/3 of all war memorials were created in the period following the First World War.  Using some war memorial inscriptions, pupils considered why communities would have wanted to create war memorials.  Pupils understood that the fallen were buried near where they fell on the battlefields as the government chose not to repatriate the dead.  This meant their family and friends needed a place at home where they could remember their loved ones.  The class also established that people at the time wanted the names of the fallen to be remembered by future generations.

Before setting off to visit the war memorial, pupils were given a little bit of history about it.  They were interested to learn that it had originally been located in the centre of Lees but had been moved due to concerns about the amount of traffic.  At the war memorial, pupils had a really close look at the monument and then described what they could see.  One of the elements which really struck pupils was the inscriptions on the plinth.  They felt they were incredibly powerful.  They noted the soldier, the wreath, the book with the World War II dedication and also the three stepped base.  Pupils were asked if they felt any of the design features were chosen by the people of Lees for a particular reason.  They made interesting suggestions in relation to the soldier, wreath and book.

Back in the classroom, each group was given a large image of a war memorial and asked to label the different design features.  Labels included: flags, wreath, dates, cross, pillar, stepped base, peace and victory.  These were then shared with the class along with some of the meanings behind these symbols.  To end the session, pupils were then given the opportunity to design their own war memorial.  They were asked to consider the shape they would use and the different symbols they would include.  The pupils created a huge variety of designs, each one was unique but equally well thought out.

It was an absolute pleasure to spend the afternoon with the year 6 class at St Thomas Leesfield Primary School.  They demonstrated a huge amount of understanding and dealt with the subject in very mature way.  It is hoped that what they learnt in the session during the afternoon goes on to inspire them to want to learn even more about the people who are remembered by their local war memorials.

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