Rushcliffe School in West Bridgford yesterday played host to hundreds of students from across the Midlands who took part in a debate on WW1 organised by the Department for Education. The debate was the fourth in a series of five being held across England in 2018/19 with events having already taken place in Sheffield, London and Liverpool and a future event planned in Oxford.
The debate series, now in its third year, is free to schools and has already seen thousands of young people from across England involved. With studies showing an increasing detachment between young people and the World Wars, the series has been created to increase young people’s engagement with WW1 as a subject.
Wednesday’s debate focused on ‘Surgery and Treatment’ in the First World War and its impact on medical practices post war. The debate was chaired by BBC Newsnight presenter Mark Urban who was joined by a panel of experts including:
- Dr Ross Wilson, Associate Professor & Director of Liberal Arts – Dr Wilson has conducted extensive research into the experience of British soldiers at the front line and behind lines as well as into representations of wartime service through historiography, the memorial landscape, film, television, art and literature
- Dr Samraghni Bonnerjee, University of Sheffield – Literary and cultural historian of the First World War teaching Modern Literature, Critical Theory and the making of the twentieth century
- Dr Ian Whitehead, University of Derby – Dr Whitehead is the Head of Literary, Historical and Cultural Studies and Academic Head of University of Derby Online Learning. He has a particular interest in war and medicine, the history of medicine and warfare and social change in the twentieth century
- Dan Hill, Military Historian – Dan founded and now leads the Herts at War Project and also works free-lance as a battlefield guide and on a number of Great War military history projects throughout the UK
As well as taking part in the lively debate, students also had the chance to see and handle artefacts from the war including uniforms and artillery.
Sam Biddleston, a student in Year 10, commented: “I’d never taken part in such a big debate before. Hearing the views of world-renowned experts and finding out how many modern day medical practices were started in the war really helped bring the subject to life for me and has made me want to find out more.
“Seeing the uniforms and artillery that were used by soldiers who were not much older than us was also really thought provoking and made me more grateful than ever for the sacrifices that were made in the war.”
Last year 90% of students that attended a debate rated them as ‘good’ with 94% of teachers saying it had helped their students reflect on WW1 from a variety of standpoints. 97% of teachers also said they would recommend the event to colleagues.
Chair of the panel, BBC Newsnight presenter Mark Urban, said: “We had a great debate in Nottingham today, with a strong contribution from local schools. The teachers got their pupils focused on the topics, and they had great questions.”
Sophie Jenkins, Head of History at Rushcliffe School, commented: “It has been wonderful to host such a prestigious event in the centenary year of the end of the Great War and to see so many young people captivated, questioning and involved.
“The speakers were so interesting and the insights they shared will inspire a new depth of interest in this important period of history in our students.”
The WW1 debate series will hold the final event on Thursday 6th December at Oxford Spires Academy in Oxford.