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The Battlefields of France

Two Year 10 history students, Antoinette Kalambo and Solomon Harrison accompanied Mrs Braithwaite, head of history, on an educational visit during September, to the battlefields of Belgium and France.

battlefields 1The long weekend was a government funded initiative to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. The government’s intention is that two students and a member of staff from every secondary school in Britain will be taken to the battlefields of Belgium and France between 2014 and 2018.

The programme involved visits to major First World War sites including the Somme and Ypres battlefields, museums, memorials and both commonwealth and German cemeteries.

battlefileds 2Soldiers currently serving in the British army, worked alongside the students and provided a unique insight into the role of soldiers then and now. There were many highlights of the trip, including the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres (Leper), where two students accompanied by the soldiers laid a wreath to the fallen.

Antoinette told us:

The Tyne Cot cemetery in Belgium is a staggering place. It is the biggest British and Commonwealth war cemetery in the world, with 11956 soldiers buried there. That fact brought me to tears. The sheer scale of lives lost fighting across what is now their final resting place, was so incredibly sad.”

“What was so noticeable was the number of graves of unknown men, which somehow for me, was even more poignant and highlighted just how horribly those men must have died.”

Mrs Braithwaite added:

A particularly poignant moment for me was finding the names of two distant relatives on the Thiepval Memorial, which commemorated those who had died at the Battle of the Somme.”

This was a truly memorable and moving experience for the staff and students of several schools in the Newcastle and Teesside areas.

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Students quiz party leader

Students in Middlesbrough had the rare chance to quiz a national political leader whose party opposes the type of school they go to.

Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, visited The King’s Academy, in Coulby Newham, to share her views and take questions from students on a range of issues from women in Parliament to the bombing in Iraq, corporation tax to proportional representation.

Natalie BennettOn education she said the Greens opposed free schools and academies, performance related pay for teachers, the current “sausage machine” of exams and Ofsted, saying its school inspections should be replaced with regional assessment.

The visit was the latest in a series of presentations for A level politics students and others interested in current affairs, but it was the first time the academy had welcomed a party leader since Tony Blair officially opened the school in 2003.

Politics teacher Jenni Yuill said:

This was a huge opportunity for our students because it’s such a rare chance to hear a party leader at first hand and to ask them questions.”

Mrs Bennett outlined Green Party philosophy on a range of issues including energy, the environment, business, the welfare state, housing, supermarkets, immigration and the Scottish referendum.

She said:

We are using the resources of three planets every year, but we only have one planet. We have to cut back to one planet living and live within the limits of the environment, but some people are switching off their heating and missing meals. We have to fundamentally restructure our society because at the moment it’s not feeding people and it’s not giving people the jobs they can build a life on.”

The Greens Party wants to see not only proportional representation but also the creation of a people’s constitutional convention where people from the age of 16 would be selected to draw up a new constitution for the country.

Urging the students to get involved, she said:

Politics should be something you do, not something that’s done to you. Do some politics. You can do it while you’re a student – a litter pick is a political act. Organise to change things.

“I’m very sorry that we have made a right mess of things. It’s up to you to sort them out and that’s a great opportunity for you.”