Hundreds of South Yorkshire students attend WW1 debate at Sheffield school

The debate in full flow with from L to R on the panel:  Benjamin Ziemann, John Young, Chris Kempshall and Dan Hill (Picture: CPG photography)
The debate in full flow with from L to R on the panel: Benjamin Ziemann, John Young, Chris Kempshall and Dan Hill (Picture: CPG photography)
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Hundreds of students from across South Yorkshire attended a World War One debate at a Sheffield school organised by the Department of Education. 

The debate was held at King Edward School in Broomhill, and was the first in a series of five being held across the UK in 2018/19.

Military Historian, Dan Hill showing students artefacts, artillery and uniforms used during the war by soldiers not much older than many of the students taking part in the debate (Picture: CPG photography)

Military Historian, Dan Hill showing students artefacts, artillery and uniforms used during the war by soldiers not much older than many of the students taking part in the debate (Picture: CPG photography)

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 ‘Changing Reputation and Memory’ and explored how the First World War has been remembered and memorialised over time.

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It was chaired by BBC news journalist and presenter, John Young, who was joined by renowned experts in the history of World War One.

Young people were invited to put their questions to the panel and join in the debate with regular votes (Picture: CPG photography)

Young people were invited to put their questions to the panel and join in the debate with regular votes (Picture: CPG photography)

This included Professor Benjamin Ziemann, a Professor of Modern German History at the University of Sheffield and a renowned expert in the military, social and cultural history of the First World War.

And, Dr Chris Kempshall  who is an Associate Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Kent, a member of the Academic Advisory Board to the Imperial War Museum First World War Centenary projects and an advisor to the BBC on their Centenary projects.

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Students learnt about the impact of war on women, the effect war had on the British Empire, how we remember the fallen and about groups that have sometimes been forgotten in commemorations.

A view of the event at King Edward VII School (Picture: CPG photography)

A view of the event at King Edward VII School (Picture: CPG photography)

Daniel Janicki, a student in Year 13, at King Edward VII School said: “Having the chance to debate with world-renowned experts and hearing so many different perspectives brought the impact of the war to life for me.

“Seeing the actual uniforms and artillery used by soldiers who were not much older than us was also really thought provoking.  It made me think about the huge sacrifices that were made just one hundred years ago so that we can live the life we do today.”

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.

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Chair of the panel, BBC news presenter, John Young, said:  “I was transfixed by the First World War when I studied it as a schoolboy more than thirty years ago.  It is as important now as it was then — perhaps even more so, as our political landscapes and alliances shift so unpredictably.

“I welcome this chance for young people to think about it - deeply - and ask questions. 

“Everyone on the panel was impressed with the depth of knowledge the students demonstrated and with the energy and enthusiasm they brought to the debate. 

“It was so reassuring to hear their own perspectives, and observe their curiosity.  If these pupils reflect the next generation of decision makers and leaders, I’ll feel in safe hands.” 

Matthew Harland, Head of History at King Edward VII School, said: “It was a privilege to host The Great War Debate at King Edward VII School. To see students thoroughly engaged in the issue of remembrance and ask far-reaching questions to a panel of academics was an extremely valuable experience.

“Our students not only challenged their own perceptions of the Great War but also challenged the views of leading historians. This not only develops their knowledge of the Great War but also furthers their interest in the study of history. An invaluable experience.”

The series, now in its third year, is free to all state schools and has already seen thousands of young people from across England involved. 

It will now visit schools in London, Liverpool, Nottingham and Oxford.