Staff here at UCL were deeply shocked and saddened at the news that history teacher, James Furlong of The Holt School in Wokingham, was murdered last week. James was known to our Centre as a dedicated teacher keen to develop Holocaust education in his school. His colleagues described him as someone who inspired everyone he taught. Our thoughts are with his family, and school community on their truly, tragic loss and that the perpetrator of this crime will be brought to justice.
This week drew to a close a series of online seminar/chats with teachers of UCL’s Beacon School programme in Holocaust Education. Had it not be for the Coronavirus, our team would have led this group of dedicated teachers on a knowledge-building site visit to Poland. The tour would have included a visit to the former ghetto in Warsaw, the key sites of and monuments to the Jewish ghetto uprising and the death camp of Treblinka. Time would also have been spent attempting to capture a sense of Jewish life, culture, vibrancy and diversity in Warsaw before the Holocaust. Ironically, a guided walk through the old Jewish cemetery would have been a doorway to this discovery through examining the distinctive carvings and symbols on the headstones many of which are partially destroyed and unravelling the stories that they can tell.
Instead, we held a less poignant but nonetheless rousing online seminars series which proved highly successful in extending knowledge and pedagogic expertise. Conversations circulated around a particular stimulus – a document, sculpture, painting, diary account for example and we wrestled with the many questions that they raised. As we closed the series on Tuesday evening one teacher told us:
I think it’s been fantastic. Going forward I think it’s been really good model that you could take for a general CPD for teachers.
I commend our Beacon School teachers 2019-2020, their schools and SLTs for their outstanding hard work this year. Despite the pandemic you have maintained your commitment to this intensive programme. We wish you well and hope that at least some of you will put your schools forward for the UCL Quality Mark in Holocaust Education.
Sam Ineson from Manchester Enterprise Academy is one of the Beacon Programme Lead Teachers and has written a blog this week that I highly recommend you read. It gives a fascinating insight into how one school and its staff has responded to the needs of students during the lockdown and highlights the concerns for those teaching about the Holocaust. He says: The nature of teaching a controversial and contentious history such as the Holocaust has its challenges within the classroom, which are magnified without the constant of a teacher addressing and questioning misunderstandings head on. He demonstrates how following an online session with UCL he used a rather unconventional photograph to bring around his Year 9 students to asking pertinent questions about the Holocaust.
Wishing you a restful weekend which I hope for us all will be sunny and peaceful.