Pupils learn secrets of codebreakers

Bletchley Park education officer Tom Briggs shows Newminster Middle School pupils Victoria Lewis and Carla Barker an enigma machine.

Bletchley Park education officer Tom Briggs shows Newminster Middle School pupils Victoria Lewis and Carla Barker an enigma machine.

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An enigma machine was the star attraction during a special war-themed day at a Morpeth middle school.

Year 8 pupils have been learning about how the spook hardware invented by a German was used by Britain’s code-breakers as a way of deciphering German signals traffic during World War Two in their computing classes.

And after getting Bletchley Park education officer Tom Briggs to come along to Newminster Middle School and Technology College with one of the machines on Tuesday – Armistice Day – staff decided that it would be fitting to put together other activities across a few different subjects.

The students created some ‘trench art’, there was a lesson about how important music was when the world wars were taking place (which included singing famous songs such as It’s a Long Way to Tipperary and Pack Up Your Troubles) and they made poppies out of ribbons using the proggy technique.

In addition, experts from Newcastle University attended to run a session called Artefacts from the trenches.

The main organiser of the day was Rachel Bowler, curriculum leader for computing at Newminster.

She said: “They thoroughly enjoyed the day and they were fascinated by the enigma machine, which Tom informed us was the one used in the film about the code-breaking at Bletchley Park – The Imitation Game – which is hitting the cinemas this week.

“As the world wars took place so long ago, it’s hard for the pupils to comprehend what happened, but focusing on them throughout the day on the 11th of the 11th helped to bring home to them the significance of what the soldiers and people working behind the scenes in places such as Bletchley Park did for our country.

“It also enhances their learning when a topic is covered across different school subjects.

“Learning about the enigma machines has made our Year 8 students keen to find out more about the world wars and they are asking their parents and other family members if any of their relatives were involved.”