Reflections on student surveys


Every headstone tells a story at Lijssenthoek

As part of the UCL Institute of Education First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme’s ongoing commitment to a premium pupil experience, we have once again partnered with University of Exeter historian, Dr Catriona Pennell, to conduct the second evaluation analysis of young people who participated in the tours in spring 2017.

Following the same methodology of the spring 2015 evaluation, Dr Pennell’s report was based on five-months of tour observation, surveying, focus groups and interviews with 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 vast majority of students rate the tour experience very highly, describing it as ‘great’, ‘a fantastic opportunity’ and ‘absolutely brilliant’. For many, the FWWCBTP is providing 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 underscore that the FWWCBTP team continue to deliver a high quality and stimulating programme that enhances pupil understanding of the First World War on the Western Front in an innovative and interactive manner. By physically experiencing and seeing the battlefields and monuments, pupils are better able to grasp the scale of loss, 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.

Dr Pennell commented: ‘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, added: ‘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 we 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 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

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