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A class act in teaching Black Country culture

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: April 10, 2014

Proudly showing off their research from The Bugle about their project What put the Black in the Black Country are Class 3 at Newtown Primary School

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A PRIMARY school deputy head had "an overwhelming response" when she wrote a letter to the Bugle seeking readers' help in designing a series of lessons on the Black Country's heritage.

Rebecca Woodall, of Newtown Primary School in Anne Close, West Bromwich, asked if our paper could inspire her pupils in Year 3 with the new objectives of the revised curriculum on local history and her topic of What put the Black in the Black Country?

The subject is very topical after last week Andy Street, managing director of John Lewis and chairman of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership, called for an idea to put the Black Country into a super region of Greater Birmingham, to be looked at again.

Also Walsall's Poet Laureate, Ian Henery, highlighted the lack of children's knowledge on our industrial background in The Bugle (March 20 edition) when he went into one school to talk about his grandfather going down the pit for coal and some pupils asked him: Do you mean Ashley or Cheryl?

Meanwhile, many of our readers responded to Miss Woodall's request for help in The Bugle.

Parents and grandparents gave copies of The Bugle for the students to study our history and heritage.

The Birmingham Canal Navigations Society's Phil Clayton shared the history of the local waterways and taught them the difference between Thomas Telford's and James Brindley's canals. Later in the course the pupils went on a canal trip.

Paul Line from Mapseekers came into school to show his new book, Wildfire through Staffordshire, and provided detailed maps of the area, including one of the coal seam.

Historian Graham Fisher MBE piloted a boat into the Dudley tunnels and the pupils also spent a day at the Black Country Living Museum.

The following week he took a group of them and their parents to Ryders Green Locks and later led an assembly about the area's history.

An ex-miner told the class about working down the mines.

"The pupils were fascinated about how they used to go to the toilet and how they had to keep their sandwiches from being eaten by the mice and rats," said Miss Woodall.

"The Question and Answer session went on for ages; he was amazed by their knowledge of the Black Country."

It led on to an art lesson where the children drew scenes above and below ground using charcoal.

Walsall Poet Laureate Ian Henery has been inspiring the pupils to write their own poetry through the Bugle's Ballads page and he is also judging their efforts. The winning poems will be featured in a future Bugle on the Ballads page.

An enthusiast, who has created his own maps of Great Bridge and the surrounding industry, visited the school which led on to history and geography lessons about the coal, iron ore and limestone of the area plus debates in the English lessons about fracking.

Now all the pupils' work is highlighted all round their classroom.

The deputy head added: "We had an overwhelming response from Black Country Bugle readers.

"I have had letters and phone calls from local people offering advice and help with the topic so would like to say thank you to all of them for taking an interest in our work."

Ian Henery added: "This is a classic example of the local community turning to the Bugle for help and getting a reply from the community. I think it's great."

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