South London Press Editor gives Year 6 a history lesson

History was brought to life for Year 6 at Sydenham High when South London Press Editor Hannah Walker brought materials from the paper’s substantial archives into school.

The paper is currently celebrating 150 years of publishing news and celebrating local events, having been launched as a literary journal in 1865.

Ms Walker also showed the girls a copy of the front page of the paper’s very first edition. She explained the long and very physical process needed to produce the paper at that time, in comparison to today, and showed them examples of the hot metal plates that were used for printing.

The girls were particularly excited to see copies of the paper from 1914 and 1918 as they are currently rehearsing for a production of Archie Dobson’s War on 13 and 14 May*.  This version of the BBC School Radio play, devised to celebrate the WW1 centenary, includes the girls’ own improvised material based on their co-curricular learning journeys around WW1.

Ms Walker explained that initially the paper included very little news about the war as the Government was keen to play down news of troop losses and very few reporters went out to the front. Gradually news began to trickle back with returning soldiers and by 1918 the South London Press had something about the war on its front page every week as well as many obituaries inside.

The history lesson continued in the senior school library where the girls were shown examples from the school’s wartime archives, including details of fathers and brothers of students on the front line; Old Girls’ war work and fundraising plus the adoption of prisoners of war.  The girls also looked at old photographs and documents from the school’s war years so they could ‘spot the difference’ in buildings, classrooms, lessons and, of course, school uniform.