Pupils can be enthused by bringing the past to life

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Did you enjoy history lessons at school? Or did you find it all a bit dry and boring, a load of dates and a teacher reeling off facts that didn’t mean very much?

Well they don’t have that problem at Portsmouth’s Northern Parade Junior School. There, history is very real.

Today we report how pupils were taught about the Vikings in a novel and engaging way. They carefully built a model village, then watched as their Viking ‘leader’, teacher Dr Sara Collins, set fire to it on the playing fields.

The pupils then charged in life-sized ‘boats’ using oars and spears they had made, screaming battle cries as they went.

It sounds like it was quite a spectacle. And that’s the whole point. By bringing history to life in this exciting way, the school has ensured that children are much more likely to remember what they’ve been taught and to be inspired and enthused when writing about the Vikings.

As Year 4 teacher Sarah Hilditch said: ‘We can’t go back in time, so this is the closest thing we can do to make it real for them. If you give children a real life experience, they produce much better quality work.’

We agree. Let’s hope other schools take note and think about what they can do to make lessons more fun while ensuring that knowledge is gained.

Some parents at Northern Parade complained because they said their children were unhappy to see their homework burned to the ground. But we think they should see the bigger picture.

Consider the words of eight-year-old Jennifer Amponsah, who said of the Viking attack: ‘I’m glad I wasn’t living in those times, but acting out what they went through is an amazing way to learn history.’

There’s another aspect of this story that we also find refreshing.In an age of the nanny state when everybody seems obsessed by health and safety and wrapping up our children in cotton wool, the teachers of Northern Parade were not constrained.

Instead they were encouraged to use the fire for dramatic effect – a bold move that should be aplauded.