SCHOOLCHILDREN will be encouraged to visit important heritage sites across the North East under a new education initiative designed to bring history alive for youngsters.
The Government’s Heritage Schools scheme – launched today by Education Secretary Michael Gove – seeks to use England’s rich island history to inspire children and enhance their learning.
English Heritage will receive £2.7m from the Department for Education to help pupils understand their local history, and how it relates to the national story.
The organisation will use the funding to recruit a team of people with a background in education and history.
They will work with groups of schools and use their knowledge and expertise to help teachers harness local heritage as a teaching tool for children.
In the North East, English Heritage manages and maintains a wide range of historic properties which attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
They include four properties – Housesteads, Chesters and Birdoswald Roman forts and Corbridge Roman Town – on the 73-mile long Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site which spans almost 2,000 years of history.
Other properties which schoolchildren will be encouraged to visit under the Heritage Schools initiative include Belsay Hall Castle and Gardens, Lindisfarne Priory on Holy Island, Warkworth Castle, Brinkburn Priory, Tynemouth Priory, Barnard Castle and Aydon Castle.
Last night Hexham Conservative MP, Guy Opperman, said: “This is a fantastic programme which will see some of Northumberland’s most remarkable sites excite and inspire a whole new generation of schoolchildren.”
Mr Gove said visiting such heritage treasures would bring history alive for children. He used the example of schoolchildren in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, who could see the remains of the Franciscan friary, shattered by the Reformation, and visit the great Tudor pilgrimage chapel used as a gunpowder store during the Civil War.
“All belong to the people locally, and local children who visit them will be inspired to delve further. We have a rich island story, which can be brought to life by seeing our historical and heritage sites,” Mr Gove added.
Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said: “Outside every school there is a rich history.
“In the high street, the housing estate, the park, riverside and field, every town, city and village is full of places in which significant events have taken place.
“Our Heritage Schools initiative will bring history to life both in the classroom and out of it, weaving it into the life of the community and endowing present and future generations of children with a vivid understanding of the place in which they grew up.”
The scheme could encourage schools to link up with historical organisations in the run-up to the 100th anniversary of the First World War in 2014, to identify servicemen who lived in their area, or study local war memorials, the Department for Education said.