Burton End Primary -WW2 workshop

Another new school for us, and pretty close to home too.  Also a new topic for this age group.  We were running our Year 9 workshop for Year 6.  We’d run the workshop for Year 7s before and they’d seemed to love it, even more than the Year 9s, so when Mr Murray asked if the workshop would work for that age group, we thought it probably would.

Everyone was very friendly and helpful on arrival and directed us to the small hall which we were running the workshop in.  This was preferable to the lunch hall as it meant that we wouldn’t have to pack down before lunch, which would have been impossible for this workshop as it was not designed to be shoved in a corner or packed down quickly as our KS1 castle workshop was.  It was a small hall but we managed to fit everything in just about.  We didn’t bring the Morrison shelter for this workshop but everything else was there.  I was wearing some 1940s trousers and knitwear.  I bought these clothes 5 years ago but had gained weight and not been able to fit them again till recently.  It felt so odd to be wearing trousers whilst running a school workshop.  The dress normally dominates all historic clothing for women.

The first workshop was soon upon us and I was feeling a little nervous, having never run the workshop for this age group before.    I often have nerves before a workshop but it’s always the good kind of excited that an actor feels before going on stage.  The workshop covers lots of home front topics in an hour, rationing, black out, ARP wardens, home guards, fire bombs, military such as RAF & home guards, salvage and lots more.  It’s presented through a format of crime. Many things were made a crime during WW2 which would not normally be a crime such as feeding the birds (wasting food).  The children are given identity cards and roles.  Some of them are then put on trial for various crimes and the children have to guess if the crime presented is real or not.  An example is the lady who threw away a bus ticket and received a £100 fine for wasting paper.  Considering that a woman might only earn £2 or £3 per week, this was a phenomenal sum.  She had obviously been made an example of.  It was important to salvage every thing possible during the war, even a bus ticket could make the wadding for a bullet.    I think we blew their mind a little with the incredible fines and punishments that the people were given, even for seemingly minor things such as falling asleep on the train and ending up in Hastings on the South Coast.  We use a swingometer in the workshop.  When the majority of students guess correctly, it moves towards victory and if most of them guess wrong, it moves towards invasion. In both workshops I think we got on to ‘Invasion avoided’ so perhaps to about 1943/44.

There was time at the end of the workshops for the children to come up and have a look at the artefacts such as the 100 year old Lewis gun, which might have been used by the Home guard, our table of wartime rations, or our original gas masks, (all now cleaned and certified safe by an asbestos removal company).

It was just two workshops for us and we were packed up and on our way home by lunch.  We think that the workshop was quite successful and we’ll certainly be working on it and developing it more for this age group in the future.  If any other schools have some Year 6s and a spare hall for us to run the workshop in, we’d love to run it again.  Thanks Burton End and hopefully we’ll see you another year.  Good luck with your project.

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