Sheffield schoolchildren create poppy memorial for former teacher

17 October 2014

Pupils at a Sheffield primary school are creating a display of 440 hand-made poppies in memory of a former teacher killed at the Battle of the Somme.

Woodseats Primary School teacher Alexander Walter Shiell died on July 1st 1916 – the very first day of World War One’s bloodiest battle – alongside hundreds of other soldiers in the Yorkshire and Lancashire Regiment.

Pupils at the school where he taught have now researched his life story and created their own poppy tribute around a brass plaque in his memory, which hangs in their school dining hall.

Every pupil has made a paper or ceramic poppy for the display, inspired by the national commemorative poppy artwork at the Tower of London, called Blood Swept Lands And Seas of Red.

The children’s own poppy display will form the centrepiece of a ‘Fallen Fields’ remembrance week at the school next week. (October 20 – 24)

Woodseats Primary headteacher Sinead Fox: “The pupils have found it fascinating to research the life story of a young man who once taught at their own school and then died alongside so many others at the Battle of the Somme.

“It has really brought home to them the history of World War One and its impact on real people.”

The ten and eleven-year-old pupils discovered that Alexander William Shiell was born in 1885 and taught at their school for over ten years. He married in 1916, just weeks before his death in battle. Private AW Shiell’s name is listed on the Thiepval Memorial to the Somme in France – and the children have visited their local war memorial bearing his name in St Chads church, Woodseats.

Their research – including a photograph they discovered of Alexander - will now be added to the school archives.
Sinead added: “AW Shiell’s story has really touched and inspired the children. The poppy field was their idea too and we look forward to showing it to parents as part of a wider display of project work next week.

“The children will also hold their own remembrance event on Monday November 10.”

Members of the pupils’ school parliament have also decided to raise £30 to buy a ceramic poppy from the Tower of London exhibition, in WH Shiell’s honour. The London poppies are being sold individually in aid of military charities after the artwork is taken down later this year.

Woodseats Primary School year five and six pupils have been studying the First World War through the Cornerstones’ creative curriculum project, Fallen Fields.

They will show a range of project work including a recreation of a World War One trench next week.

Cornerstones Education is a Barnsley-based company which produces creative curriculum teaching and learning resources for primary schools across England and Wales.

Cornerstones creative director Melanie Moore: “The children at Woodseats Primary have worked very hard on their World War One project with in-depth research and thought-provoking writing and analysis. They have been really inspired by their direct connection to a former teacher at their school who died in the conflict.

“We feel it is very important younger generations develop knowledge and understanding of this hugely significant and complex period in our history.”

The Fallen Fields project, produced by Cornerstones, aims to help schools in-corporate cross-curricular learning into World War One project work. The free project, launched in the World War One’s centenary year, has been sent to more than a thousand schools. It comes with ready-made learning resources such as presentations, song lyrics and maps, photographs, poems, paintings and website links .Free copies are still available via www.cornerstoneseducation.co.uk

Notes to editor

Media photographs are invited to Woodseats Primary School to see the Fallen Fields poppy display. Please contact head teacher Sinead Fox on 0114 255 4619 or enquiries@woodseats.sheffield.sch.uk

Link is to a photograph of AW Shiell originally from the Sheffield Telegraph newspaper, discovered by the children through their research: http://www.picturesheffield.com/frontend.php?keywords=Ref_No_increment;EQUALS;y06125&pos=186&action=zoom&id=97308

For further information about Cornerstones, please contact Julia McInally at Cornerstones on 0844 335 0300 or j.mcinally@cornerstoneseducation.co.uk

The Cornerstones creative curriculum for three to 11-year-olds is used by more than a thousand schools in England and Wales.
Cornerstones’ educational resources are packed with exciting and engaging ways to help children learn; encouraging them to engage; develop skills, knowledge and understanding; innovate and express themselves; while at the same time providing comprehensive coverage of the government’s National Curriculum. Cornerstones resources are designed to help teachers deliver high quality lessons. They also save them time planning and enable them to spend more time with children in the classroom.
Cornerstones is based at Fields End Business Park, Goldthorpe, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S63 0JF, tel: 0844 335 0300, www.cornerstoneseducation.co.uk

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