SCHOOLS across the UK have been invited to join the Shrouds of the Somme Project as the nation marks the 100thanniversary of the end of the First World War.

The Shrouds project will form one of the major centrepieces of commemorations and teachers are being urged to get involved to give pupils an unforgettable way of marking the historic landmark.

Artist Rob Heard has spent the past five years making more than 72,000 small shrouded figures each one representing one of the men killed in the bloodiest battle in British military history whose bodies were never recovered.

In November each of the shrouds will be laid out in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park as a graphic reminder of the scale of sacrifice in the Great War.

School children reading the names of the 72,396 with no known grave, displayed on walls of The Trench.

As part of this major piece of public art, schools will be able to download tools helping teachers bring the sacrifices and significance of the First World War to life.

Shrouds has teamed up with University College London and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to produce a self-guided teaching resource as well as free-online learning resources aimed at supporting staff exploring the topic of the First World War and in particular the Battle of the Somme.

Vicky Price, Education Co-ordinator at UCL Special Collections, said: “You can teach the details but one thing that’s almost impossible to do is help children to understand the scale of the sacrifices made during the First World War.”

Artist Rob Heard talking to students about the project during visit to The Trench

“Visiting the site of the Shrouds in November will bring this message home and I would urge schools to take this unique opportunity. Those who cannot visit the installation itself, can still be part of this unique project by accessing our online tools as a teaching aid as the nation marks the 100thanniversary of the end of the Great War.”

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Chief Historian Glyn Prysor says “Many visitors to the CWGC’s Thiepval Memorial in France are overwhelmed by the 72,000 names of the missing inscribed on its walls. Rob Heard’s powerful and challenging artwork confronts us with the human impact of that loss. We are proud to be partnering with Shrouds of the Somme and UCL to deliver a learning programme to explain the history behind the art, as well as encouraging a new generation to reflect on our cemeteries and memorials.”

The Shrouds of the Somme presents schools with an invaluable opportunity to engage with the history of the First World War around this year’s important Armistice Day; it is a unique representation of one artist’s efforts to memorialise the many thousands of soldiers lost in action at one particularly devastating battle.

The First World War is an immense topic to teach to young people, and providing the right stimulus and environment to allow pupils to develop their own emotional and intellectual response is a real challenge. Learning about the artist Rob Heard’s journey to creating this installation, using the online resources, visiting the installation and, for local schools, inviting the team to deliver workshops or introductory talks to pupils can all contribute towards pupils making a meaningful connection between the Armistice tradition and the magnitude of the First World War.

For all schools:

See www.shroudsofthesomme.com/schools-programme/

  • Free online learning resources: aimed at supporting teachers exploring the topic of the First World War, and in particular The Battle of the Somme.Classes do not need to visit the installation to benefit from these resources.  The activities enclosed will encourage pupils to lead their own historical enquiry, to discover the impact of the battle and to consider the act of memorialising those lost 100 years on.
  • A self-guided resource for school groups to use when they visit the installation.This will go some way to helping pupils process the magnitude of what the Shrouds of the Somme represents.  It will also help pupils consider their own emotional and intellectual response to what they have learned.
  • Pre-installation visit introductory sessions:Held in a venue close to the installation, these will be offered to classes from schools in the four neighbouring boroughs (Newham, Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Waltham) and will be designed to ‘set the scene’ before classes visit the installation.
  • School workshops for Key Stage 2 and 3: delivered on site at schools in the four neighbouring boroughs, these will combine poetry, creativity and the use of primary resources to investigate the Battle of the Somme, its impact and how and why we remember it.