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St John's Catholic Comprehensive, Kent

  • County name: Kent
  • Group/School name: St John's Catholic Comprehensive
  • Age group: 11 - 18
  • Group type: Year 7

Following visits to St John’s Catholic Comprehensive School in 2015 and 2017, War Memorials Trust were delighted to be invited to the school’s Year 7 History Day again in June 2018.  The focus of the day was Remembrance and Commemoration.  War Memorials Trusts Learning Officer was one of a number of visitors who worked with and spoke to the year 7 students on the day.  Other visitors included a Normandy veteran, a local historian, a local collector of World War I and II artefacts and a member of staff from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.  This year, pupils from two other local schools were also invited along to listen to the talks and find out how to research the names on their local war memorial.

Following the first talk by the local historian, WMT’s Learning Officer was invited to speak to the groups of students from the visiting schools about the work of War Memorials Trust.  This short talk covered the aims of the Trust, the work of the Trust, the different types of war memorials and some of the problems which face them.  This introduction set the scene for the work they went on to do researching the names on their local war memorial.

In the sessions before and after lunch our Learning Officer worked with several groups of up to 30 students from St John’s.  These sessions looked at the work of WMT, what war memorials are and why they are important.  Initially pupils were informed of the WMT’s aims and how it goes about trying to achieve these.  The session moved onto to pupils being asked to create a definition for war memorials using their own thoughts and photographs of local war memorials.  One pupil came up with the definition

"A memorial is a sign of gratitude for those participated in the war.  It can be a tombstone, a spot within a church or a whole building."

Having defined what a war memorial is students then identified how many there are in the UK and when many of them were created, discussion followed about why war memorials were created.  Using the memorial inscriptions shown to them they were able to suggest that war memorials were a place for families to remember their loved ones and that they were to help future generations remember the sacrifices that were made.

Students were asked to consider the statement “War Memorials Trust should continue to conserve and protect war memorials”.  Many students agreed with the statement and suggested that it was important to remember those that had sacrificed their lives.  Others did not agree with the statement as they felt that the memorials were pieces of history and should look that way.  When questioned they did clarify that if the memorial had become damaged in some way then it was important that works were undertaken to rectify this.

The final part of the session looked at the problems facing some war memorials, why this is the case and what can be done.  Grant cases from Kent were shared with students so they could see works that have been carried out.

The History Day concluded with the local military collector showing the students a wide range of World War I and II items including propaganda posters, guns and uniforms.  Students were particularly intrigued by the mobile telephone which was the size of a small cupboard.

It was wonderful to be invited to participate in the History Day again and to work with the year 7 students.  They showed great understanding and respect towards remembrance and commemoration which was highlighted by the thoughtful poems and artwork they produced.  Considered discussions took place during the WMT sessions and also the students asked thoughtful questions to extend their own understanding.

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