Case study: ‘The Troubles’ - Northern Ireland

Date Posted: 20/10/2015

Students in front of the 'You are now entering Free Derry' sign – a symbol of the Troubles in the city. Photo credit: Mike Shiel.

Anglia Tours provides History-based guided tours for schools and recently took a group of 40 GCSE students from Thomas Telford School, Shropshire to Northern Ireland for a three day trip to study ‘The Troubles’ 1968-1972.

As part of their OCR History GCSE ‘History Around Us’ module, students from Thomas Telford School, along with senior deputy head, Robert Furlong visited Northern Ireland to understand the background of ‘The Troubles’ from 1968 to 1972. 

When asked why a trip to Northern Ireland as part of the ‘History around us’ module was chosen, Robert explained: “There were three reasons. The first two are quite straight forward - it was one of the best options the exam board offered and plus I have a very personal interest because of my Irish background.

"However the most important reason is my belief that it is such a fundamental part of British history that most mainland people know nothing about and are often completely perplexed by its complexities.”

Guided around by a former Republican prisoner, students visited Derry/Londonderry - at the centre of some of the worst conflicts during the period – to explore the events building up to and around Bloody Sunday on 30th January 1972.

The visit also included a talk by the brother of one of those killed on that day, providing further detailed first-hand accounts of the violence and traumas.  

Students at the Somme Association in Newtonards. Photo credit: Mike Shiel.

A visit to the Somme Association in Newtonards where a guided visit of the Somme Heritage Centre traced the beginning of ‘The Troubles’ to the start of World War One and explored the significance of the Battle of the Somme, particularly to Northern Ireland’s Loyalist community, gave students further insight into the background of ‘The Troubles’. 

In Belfast, guided walking tours of the Loyalist Shankill Road and the Republican Lower Falls areas of the city were led by former prisoners to offer insight which the students could then take back to the classroom.

“The next three sessions were a controlled assessment on ‘to what extent were ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland over?’” Robert explained, “The students have all used their experiences to provide a very up to date, thoughtful and sophisticated argument using material that was not available in any other way.

“They also shared their experiences with their class mates, who benefitted vicariously through their experiences,” he added

Photo credit: Mike Shiel.


“The 40 or so students all said it themselves – it brought so much clarity to what had already been studied in the classroom. I am a passionate believer in walking the ground and seeing the physical remains of history.

"We do three overseas trips in the History department every year with Year 8, Year 10/11 and Year 12 plus a local history visit with Year 7 all for the same reasons. It gives students more empathy and a deeper understanding than a textbook.

“This particular trip also improved their own source evaluation and analytical skills. They were able to interrogate individuals from a range of sides - sorting fact from propaganda, looking at purpose and provenance.

"Questioning what they were told – tremendous critical thinking opportunities. It is also worth noting that this was outstanding CPD for me and my young colleagues teaching the unit for the first time. We all feel much better equipped to deliver this unit in the future.”

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