Image courtesy of the First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme

Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme helps young people see scale of First World War losses

A programme which allows a group of pupils from every English school to tour First World War battlefields is helping young people better grasp the scale of loss caused by the battles on the Western Front, analysis shows.

Physically experiencing and seeing the battlefields and monuments helps pupils to understand the geographical terrain of the battlefront, the strategies employed in fighting on the Western Front, and the impact of bereavement on the families left behind, according to analysis by Dr Catriona Pennell, from the University of Exeter.

The tours are coordinated by the UCL Institute of Education and funded by the Government.

Dr Pennell recently conducted the second evaluation analysis of young people who participated in the tours in spring 2017. She spent five months observing tours, surveying groups, running focus groups and interviewing pupils who participated in the tour programme between February and March 2017. These findings have been shared directly with the Department for Education and evidence the continued high quality educational and cultural experience of the tours. 

The analysis shows the vast majority of students rate the tour experience very highly, describing it as ‘great’, ‘a fantastic opportunity’ and ‘absolutely brilliant’. For many it is the first opportunity to visit the battlefields of the Western Front. Pupils in particular enjoy the interactive opportunities offered by the tour, such as walking through the trench dugouts, object handling, and participating in a commemorative clay-modelling session as part of the Coming World Remember Me art installation in Ypres, Belgium. Overall, the pupils’ comments show the programme is of high quality and stimulating, and enhances their understanding of the First World War on the Western Front in an innovative and interactive manner.

Dr Pennell said: ‘It was a great privilege to be able to work with the pupil participants of the FWWCBTP spring 2017 tours to garner their opinion and reflections on the tour experience. I was struck, in particular, by the passion and enthusiasm felt by many of these young people to understand the First World War during its centenary years and to commit to continue remembering the war as a direct result of their participation in the tours.”

Simon Bendry, Programme Director, said: “Working with Dr Pennell in conducting these surveys has been so helpful to the on-going development of the tour programme. By reflecting on the feedback of both the students and the teachers were have been able to constantly tweak the programme to ensure that the tours continue to inspire and engage the next generation.”

The aspiration is to repeat this evaluation process for a third and final time in 2019 to see how improvements have been integrated and to ensure evaluation and reflection is a consistent element of the FWWCBTP throughout its lifecycle.

For more information on the First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme, and how to get involved, visit: or follow the programme on twitter at @FWWCBTP

For more information about Dr Pennell’s research into the cultural memory of the First World War during the centenary period, visit: or follow her on twitter @teachlearnwar



Date: 26 January 2018

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