IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Transforming the teaching of the First World War

The IOE's innovative programme helped secondary schools tour the battlefields on the Western Front. It also inspired 15 million people to join the centenary commemorations.

Simon Bendry

The UK government launched a national cultural programme to mark the centenary of the First World War. This included giving teachers and students from every state-funded secondary school in England the chance to visit the battlefields. The IOE was awarded the tender to design and deliver the £5.3 million First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme (FWWCBTP). 

The FWWCBTP had many components. It began with teachers enrolling in continuing professional development (CPD), designed by the IOE, which provided information to prepare them for the tours.

An accompanying website provided support materials such as resources and lesson plans.  There was also a comprehensive tour booklet for pupils and teachers that included maps and photographs. The tours themselves were led by IOE coordinators and guides accredited by the Guild of Battlefield Guides.  

The programme, however, extended beyond the battlefield tours. One of its aims was to increase students' understanding of the First World War and its contemporary significance. Students researched how the First World War affected their own communities, giving them a personal connection to the events. 

It was important to ensure a civic and educational impact after the tours were over. The Legacy 110 initiative aimed for each student to engage with at least 110 people in their community through local projects. If 8,000 students reached 110 people, that would total 880,000 people, equivalent to the number of British and Commonwealth soldiers who died. 

In fact, the reach of Legacy 110 was over 15 million people across England, with community projects recognised at events at the House of Lords. More than 2,000 schools and 8,500 students and teachers took part in FWWCBTP. The programme also won five major awards, including EducationInvestor magazine's 'Education Partnership of the Year'.

Image: Jason Ilagan for UCL