IT has been a little while since we marked the centenary of the Armistice, but a week or so ago you couldn’t escape the topic whether that was on TV, the radio or on social media. School Twitter feeds seemed completely dominated by it.

Famous film directors joined in: for me, Danny Boyle’s beach takeover was an especially moving tribute with the incoming tides gradually washing away the images of soldiers etched on the sands. But as the images have faded and time has moved on, why is it important that I bring it back into the spotlight?

Some argue that we shouldn’t be focusing on events that happened 100 years ago; others – some of them extremely prominent people – have criticised the commemorative events, saying that it is morally wrong to celebrate war. There are those, too, who point to the £50 million spent by the Government at a time when we are working through austerity and, as an educator dependent on the Chancellor’s ‘little extras’, I am as keen as the next person that public money is apportioned appropriately.

All children currently educated at my school, Sheldon in Chippenham, were born this century, so are perhaps further distanced from the events of the First World War. Would they even be interested in hearing about the conflict, we wondered? Are we right to continually bang on about it? The answer to both questions is most definitely ‘yes’.

Having accompanied a trip to the battlefields of France and Belgium this summer, travelling with 50 or so teenagers, I saw first-hand just how moved they were by stories brought to life of soldiers not much older than themselves living and fighting in atrocious conditions, often knowingly walking to certain death as a sacrifice for the greater good.

Developing awareness in young people of the world beyond our immediate surroundings is something we are constantly working on at Sheldon. It’s part of equipping them for the rigours of life and opening their eyes to the opportunities that are out there for them once they leave school. Hearing the harsh realities from the trenches and the front line certainly provides perspective and an appreciation of the largely safer world in which they now live.

The First World War was the first war of the citizen soldier, the war in which friends joined up together, fought together and often died together. It was a war that would ultimately lead to the enfranchisement of women – for our young people to fully appreciate that fact alone is essential.

There were very few people in the countries that took part who were left unaffected in some way – the old world empires of Austro-Hungary and Turkey collapsed, with a new order in which the USA took a lead. The Russian monarchy was murdered and replaced by a Communist government, the consequences of which are still felt today.

In the lead-up to the centenary events we found that our students were incredibly engaged, researching histories of great uncles, great grandfathers and other family members and there was huge enthusiasm between students about the topic and excellent questions asked of staff.

Fostering an enquiring mind, sparking debate and getting students to have a better appreciation of the context in which they are living are all massively important life skills. Our Remembrance service was a very poignant affair, at which several servicemen were in attendance, which in turn enabled our students to learn from older members of the military the importance of remembering and why the First World War forms such a key part of the curriculum.

History can teach us many things and it is vital that we take stock of what has happened so that we learn from mistakes made by earlier generations. Our job in schools is to provide information in a balanced way and allow our students to make well-informed judgements.

My hope, now that time has moved on and major milestones have passed, is that this topic does not disappear and fade as the beach portraits did. Our students have learnt about hardship, camaraderie, tolerance, respect, where they fit in this modern world and why. All of this is as relevant today as it was in 1918; more so, in fact. Moreover, as well as reflecting and remembering, we could also say ‘thank you’ – two small words that go a long way.

Neil Spurdell