Teenager in plea over visits to battlefields

World War One Trenches

World War One Trenches

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An Earlston High pupil has made a plea for school trips to First World War battlefields and memorials to be open to more than history students.

Third-year student Joel Entwistle, 15, was one of 83 pupils from Earlston High School who spent a week visiting battlefields, cemeteries and memorials in France and Belgium.

School trip to WWI battlefields with Joel Entwistle. Vimi ridge memorial.

School trip to WWI battlefields with Joel Entwistle. Vimi ridge memorial.

However, the school trip was open only to pupils taking history as a subject and who each had to contribute to cover the costs of the visit.

But Eildon village resident Joel says the chance to visit such iconic sites and pay homage to those who fell in the Great War should be open to all.

“This is an experience that should be available to all students and not just those taking history as a subject at school as I think it is as relevant today as it ever has been,” the youngster told The Southern this week.

His call comes as the Scottish Government announces that every secondary school in Scotland is to be offered £2,000 to carry out educational visits to European battlefields as part of government plans to commemorate next year’s centenary of the Great War.

The £1million fund, administered by Historic Scotland, will span the six school years from 2013, and comes in the wake of another £1million fund to refurbish war memorials. And Borders MP Michael Moore is also urging Borderers to apply for the new £6million First World War Heritage Lottery Fund, which is also making at least £1million available per year for six years until 2019 to enable groups across the UK to explore, conserve and share their First World War heritage.

Earlston High history teacher Jane Maciver, who led the May school trip along with principal humanities teacher Mark Newies, said it would indeed be good if more pupils could go.

But she explained: “It has to be restricted to pupils taking history just because of logistics. There is so much interest in going, the trips would be oversubscribed and the contingents that do go are at the maxium size possible at the moment.

“They are very popular trips and really valuable, not just to those taking history, but for social education also.”