All children should have to visit the war graves of the First World War in order to learn more about “a critical moment of our times”, a leading children’s author has said.
Michael Morpurgo, writer of works inspired by the Great War such as War Horse and Private Peaceful said the “education minister in him” would make such visits “obligatory” for all children.
Young people should be made to visit the graves not just of British soldiers, but also those of Germans, he added.
He told a London conference organised to help teachers plan how to mark the centenary of the 1914-18 war: “I guess, deep down, it is the teacher in me. It is wanting to inspire, to alert young minds about what happened. It was the critical moment of our times, it’s the cusp of history, there’s no question at all.”
He said that while young people could access the war through poetry, stories, original documents and museums, visiting the graves in France and Belgium was an important part of their education.
“I think it should be, I wouldn’t say ‘obligatory' – the education minister in me says ‘obligatory' – for every child to go there and stand there and look at those graves.
“But not just our graves, but those of the Germans, who were sons and fathers just as our boys were.
“Because we are now living in this world where we travel, we are European, it’s important to know where we come from.”
He spoke as a programme offering free visits to key battlefield sites of the Western Front was encouraging more schools to take part.
Over the next four years, the government-funded First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme aims to give one teacher and two pupils from every English state secondary the chance to make the trip for free.
The visits are backed up with free training for teachers in the lead-up to the visit.
To register for a place, go to www.equityschooltravel.co.uk/registerinterest