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First World War centenary will leave pupils battle weary, study claims

The recent glut of First World War documentaries and dramas, such as The Crimson Field and 37 Days, are likely to lead to war-fatigue in schools, new research suggests.

Speaking in tomorrow's TES, academics from the University of Exeter and Northumbria said Teachers fear that, by the 100th anniversary of Britain’s entry into the war on 4 August, students will be bored of hearing about the politics, battles and strategies of the conflict.

The academics questioned more than 450 history and English teachers about their experiences of teaching the First World War.

“There was a feeling that the war hasn’t even started yet – we haven’t even reached 4 August – but already there’s been a lot of programming,” said Catriona Pennell, one of the researchers.

“It’s not like the D-day landings – it’s not just one day. We’ve got four and a half years of this centenary, and you could find a 100th anniversary for every one of those days, if you should so wish.”

But Paula Kitching, of the Historical Association, believes that the anniversary could provide an opportunity to broaden classroom coverage of the war beyond the trenches of the Western Front.

“I think it’s a real opportunity to look at what was a very changing conflict,” she said. “It’s a big enough story to carry on throwing up new things. Five years isn’t going to be enough, really, to look at it all in depth.”

Related links:

All young people should visit First World War graves, says War Horse author - March 2014

Harry Patch broke his silence to warn the young of war's tragedy - July 2009

Lest we forget lessons of history - April 2003


Read the full article in the 20 June edition of TES on your tablet or phone by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Subscribe to the magazine here. Or pick it up in all good newsagents.

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