PRIMARY pupils should be given the chance to visit European battlefields and war graves under plans to commemorate the centenary of the First World War, headteachers have argued.

The call follows the Scottish Government's backing for a £1 million fund to help pay for pupils to visit Western Front battlefields such as the Somme and Ypres. However, the money was allocated only to secondary schools, despite the fact many primaries also organise trips to France.

Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS), is now calling on the Scottish Government to extend the fund to all schools.

"Primary schools study the First World War and often go on battlefield trips and we can see no reason why this funding should not be opened up to those schools," he said.

"Pupils in the upper years of primary are well-equipped to explore the issues and visiting France helps bring them to life.

"It is just as valid for primary pupils to take part in trips to commemorate these events as it is for secondary pupils."

Liz Smith, education spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservatives, who has been an advocate of Government funding for such trips, said: "I wholeheartedly endorse the call by headteachers for pupils from primary schools to be included in this scheme.

"These visits are extraordinarily powerful, educational and emotional experiences and the impact can stay with young people for the rest of their lives."

Graeme Garnham, headteacher of King's Road Primary in Rosyth, Fife, said battlefield visits made a significant impact on pupils. "I have been taking primary pupils to the battlefields of Ypres and the Somme, as well as the Second World War D-Day sites in Normandy since 2002," he said.

"It is an integral part of our P7 curriculum to give children the chance to visit these sites and sample a foreign country at the same time.

"We have a number of children who come back to us and say they have taken Higher history on the back of our P7 visits."

A Government spokesman said officials would be happy to meet officials of AHDS to discuss how primary pupils could benefit from trips, but did not offer any additional funding.

"We are investing £1m over six years – £2000 for every secondary school in Scotland – to support educational trips to see First World War battlefields, giving young people a powerful insight into the trench warfare endured by millions on the Western Front," he said.

"It is entirely open to primary schools to make their own arrangements for similar trips, and many do already.

"We would be happy to meet the association to discuss how we can maximise the impact of the fund and how primary school children can best be part of an important commemoration."

The move comes after political opponents last year called on the Government to fund school visits to battlefield sites after Prime Minister David Cameron announced similar plans for schools in England.

We have a number of children who come back to us and say they have taken Higher history on the back of our P7 visits