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Battlefield Project

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 22nd November 2016.

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Photo of Keith Buchanan Keith Buchanan DUP 2:30 pm, 22nd November 2016

T2. Mr K Buchanan asked the Minister of Education to update Members on the Battlefield project. (AQT 517/16-21)

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

I thank the Member for his question. I have been working alongside the Minister for Communities to bring forward a scheme to allow schoolchildren and teachers from here to visit the World War I battlefields. That has been available to schools in England, but, although a few schools have done it, there has not been the same level of availability in Northern Ireland. I am glad that that will mean that schoolchildren from Northern Ireland will have the same opportunities as those in England and Scotland to visit the World War I battlefields.

The scheme will be open to every post-primary school in Northern Ireland that wishes to avail of it; it is not compulsory, but at least it is being allowed. It will allow for two children and a teacher from each post-primary school to visit the World War I battlefields. This will ensure that the sacrifices of all who served in the war are remembered, and people from across the political spectrum and community were involved in that war. These are also their families, because a poignant visit will often be in order to recall or, perhaps, visit the graveside of, a relative who made the supreme sacrifice. It will enable the sacrifices of those who served in the First World War to continue to be honoured and remembered.

My officials are working with officials in the Department for Communities on the finer details. It is my intention that we will be able to launch the scheme before Christmas.

Photo of Keith Buchanan Keith Buchanan DUP

I thank the Minister for his answer so far. Would he be of a mind to extend that to youth and community groups?

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

That would be the intention. There are ongoing discussions with the Department for Communities to be able to offer places on the scheme to youth and community groups. That would provide an opportunity for young people in the youth and community sector.

While our focus in education is quite often purely on schools, there is a remit, particularly at the youth level, that goes well beyond that. It is important that young people in youth and community groups can also benefit from the scheme, ensuring that as many of them as possible from here will have the opportunity to visit the World War I battle sites and remember the sacrifice of those who died there — who died, in effect, to ensure that the freedom and democracy was put in place that we are able to observe today.