The Forest of Dean Local History Society is keen to help children learn about the rich history of the area. 

Sue Middleton, Vice-chair of the Forest of Dean History Society said: “Learning local history is not just about memorizing dates and events; it's about fostering a deep-seated connection to one's community and heritage”. 

“Understanding local history builds a strong connection to one's roots, the spirit of the Forest and fosters an appreciation for community heritage. For children, exploring the history of their locality isn't just an academic exercise; it's a journey of discovery that enriches their understanding of the world around them”. 

The Forest of Dean History Society believes that learning local history is crucial for children and wants to help teachers, especially in primary schools. To do this it has launched a local history quiz competition aimed at years 4-6 during the summer term and a history competition for Key Stage Two pupils.

Details of the competition (Supplied)

Learning about the history of the Forest of Dean helps give children a sense of belonging and pride in their community. By understanding the struggles, triumphs, and contributions of those who came before them, children develop a stronger connection to their roots. This sense of belonging fosters a feeling of ownership and responsibility towards preserving and honouring local heritage.

Local history provides children with tangible connections to the past. Rather than abstract events in distant lands, studying the history of their own neighbourhood allows children to relate to historical figures and events on a personal level. They can walk the same forest paths, streets, visit historic landmarks and even hear stories passed down through generations, bringing history to life in a way that resonates deeply with them.

By learning about significant events, traditions and the experiences of different groups within their locality, children gain a deeper understanding of the factors that have shaped their community over time. This understanding promotes empathy, tolerance, and a respect for diversity.

Studying local history nurtures a sense of civic responsibility in children by demonstrating the importance of actively participating in community life. The campaigns to safeguard Forest of Dean rights and customs have shaped our environment and the characters of the people who live here. As children learn about the challenges faced by past generations and the efforts taken to address them, they are inspired to become agents of positive change in their own communities. Whether through volunteering, advocacy, campaigning or local initiatives, children can contribute to the betterment of society.

Local history helps secure cultural heritage, preserving traditions, customs, and stories that might otherwise be lost over time. Children play a vital role in safeguarding and celebrating their cultural identity. They become stewards of their heritage, ensuring that future generations continue to appreciate and learn from the rich tapestry of their community's past.

Gemma Screen from Yorkley Primary School said: “The Forest of Dean History Local History Society has provided our pupils at Yorkley with many enhanced opportunities to explore the wonderful and exhilarating surroundings of the Forest of Dean. The competition last year ignited excitement and allowed the pupils to become fully engrossed in an element of the Forest of Dean and why it is important. The pupils explored their creativity whilst building on the knowledge of the beautiful place in which they live.” 

This year both Yorkley and Parkend Schools will be taking part in the competition and the newly introduced history quiz. 

Gemma Screen added: “The pupils and the staff are looking forward to yet another chance to enhance our history curriculum and allow the children to ignite their competitive spirit. It is vital that we ensure our children learn about their local history and FODLHS provides excellent opportunities for the children to do just that”.

The Key Stage Two History Competition seeks projects which describe an element of Forest history and why it is important. It could be something about their family or a local site or a topic they have learnt from the book, ‘The Story of the Forest’.

Story of the Forest
The Story of the Forest (Supplied)

The project can be in written text of an A4 page, a 3D model, a digital submission such as Powerpoint or film or a video of a pupil speaking for up to three minutes. Closing date for entries is 30 June.

Winners will receive a £25 pupil prize and £100 for the school.

Last year’s overall competition winner was Jessica Smith of Coalway Junior School

For her 3D Model of the Union Pit Disaster Memorial.

Overall Competition Winner 2023
3D Model of the Union Pit Disaster Memorial
by Jessica Smith of Coalway Junior School
Overall Competition Winner 2023 the 3D Model of the Union Pit Disaster Memorial by Jessica Smith of Coalway Junior School (Supplied)

The competition is funded by the Dr John Jurica legacy from the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society through the Gloucestershire Local History Association, providing £1,000 over five years, to be administered by the Forest of Dean Local History Society.

The Forest of Dean Local History Society History Quiz will consist of three rounds, all held in school during school hours. In the first round, teams are paired and meet at one of the schools in the pair. The winning teams from the first round go on to the semi- final, and then the remaining two teams will battle it out in the final. It is hoped that parents, grandparents will be able to come along to support the children and cheer them on. The History Society will provide the Questioner and the Scorer.

The subjects will include history, literature, and free mining, with the questions being set by local subject experts.

Sue Middleton, Vice-chair of the Forest of Dean History Society said: “The Quiz is a great way to bring Forest local history into a learning programme and will provide some fun for the pupils taking part”. Each school can enter a team of four pupils (plus one reserve) from years 4/5/6.

The History Society will provide certificates for all children taking part, free copies of ‘The Story of the Forest’ for all finalists, prize vouchers for the winners and a trophy for the winning school.

Teachers can register their interest by contacting Sue Middleton by email at [email protected]