WWI battlefield tour for schools in Northern Ireland
Children in Northern Ireland will have an opportunity to visit the battlefields of the First World War under a new initiative.
Communities Minister Paul Givan and Education Minister Peter Weir launched the Battlefields Project at the Somme Heritage Centre in Co Down yesterday.
The project will enable two Year 10 children and a teacher from every post-primary school in Northern Ireland to visit the battlefields in France and Belgium.
Similar schemes have been operating in England and Scotland for a number of years.
Youth groups will also be given the opportunity to benefit from the project.
Mr Weir said: "As we mark the centenary events of the Great War, it is fitting that our schoolchildren have the chance to learn about the realities of war and how the sacrifices made between 1914 and 1918 have shaped our world today. Millions of people lost their lives during the First World War and that must never be forgotten.
"That is why I believe it is so important that our young people should be encouraged to remember those who died.
"This scheme will be open to children from all backgrounds and is a unique opportunity to learn about our past."
Chair of the Northern Ireland World War One Centenary Committee, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, welcomed the inclusion of local children, claiming that the former Sinn Fein Education and Culture Ministers had not got involved.
"This scheme was hugely successful in other parts of the UK," he explained.
"It was frustrating that students here in Northern Ireland were not open to the experiences that others were entitled to, however, thanks to the work of my party colleagues that has now been rectified.
"I know first-hand how poignant it is to go and visit the war graves and learn about the impact World Wars had on the lives of so many.
"I am glad that today this project has been launched, especially in this year as we marked the centenary of the Battle of the Somme."
- Schools interested in participating in a trip in 2016/17, 2017/18 or 2018/19 should send an email to the Education Authority by January 30, 2017.