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Northgate High School in Ipswich launches array of projects to remain at heart of community, including honouring the legacy of Holocaust survivor Frank Bright





A memorial to a much-loved Suffolk Holocaust survivor is just one of the projects students at an Ipswich school are involved in as they aim to make a difference.

Northgate High School, in Sidegate Lane West, has launched a number of schemes in recent years to allow it to remain at the heart of its community.

Apart from its work in Holocaust education, its students have volunteered in other countries, inspired younger pupils, and even offered companionship to those living with dementia.

Northgate High School in Ipswich has launched a number of projects to make a difference to its and other communities. Picture: Northgate High School
Northgate High School in Ipswich has launched a number of projects to make a difference to its and other communities. Picture: Northgate High School

Memorial to a much-loved Holocaust survivor

The first project the school is working on is a memorial to Auschwitz survivor Frank Bright, who died in August aged 94, having been invited to do so by the University of Suffolk.

Pupils are working on a memorial for Frank Bright (pictured). Picture: Northgate High School
Pupils are working on a memorial for Frank Bright (pictured). Picture: Northgate High School

Mr Bright was described as a friend to the school, and would regularly give talks to pupils about his experiences.

The work is still in the early stages, but pupils were keen to highlight his struggle.

One group of students were keen to shine a light on other aspects of Mr Bright’s life, both before and after the Holocaust, in a bid to humanise him.

The painting of Mr Bright. Picture: Northgate High School.
The painting of Mr Bright. Picture: Northgate High School.

It would also help others to gain an understanding of the trauma suffered by Holocaust survivors.

The deadline for the project is January and will be presented at the University of Suffolk’s Holocaust Memorial Event.

In addition, after then-Prince Charles commissioned paintings of Holocaust survivors in 2021, the school’s art department wanted to memorialise Mr Bright.

A Year 13 pupil, Sophia, was chosen, and painted him, for which she won the 2023 Anna Airy Award.

A campaign started by Northgate High School also led to Mr Bright receiving an MBE.

Dora Love Prize

Pupils from the Dora Love Prize project with Mark Curtis from the Small Nose Theatre Company. Picture: Northgate High School
Pupils from the Dora Love Prize project with Mark Curtis from the Small Nose Theatre Company. Picture: Northgate High School

Another project forms part of the Dora Love Prize, set up in 2012 by Professor Emeritus Rainer Schulze from the University of Essex’s Department of History and Human Rights.

The project aims to to teach students how to speak up against intolerance and discrimination, and schools across Essex and Suffolk take part every year.

Professor Schulze has been involved with Northgate for more than a decade, and it is the only school to participate in the prize every year.

To this end, they are working on a project alongside Holocaust survivor Rachel Levy and Mark Curtis from the Small Nose Theatre Company.

Professor Schulze said: “I have been privileged to be a guest of Northgate High School a number of times over the past years.

“Whenever I was at Northgate, I was deeply impressed by the respect shown by the students, by their enthusiasm to take on voluntary tasks such as organising the annual Community Day, by the spirit of openness and tolerance that I experienced at the school, and by an exemplary relationship between teachers and students.

“It is a relationship that sets clear limits but at the same time makes all students feel valued, challenges them and gets the best out of them. The way in which the corridors and classrooms are decorated with works by the students demonstrates how all cultures and backgrounds are celebrated here.”

A display of some of the pupil's work during Black History Month. Picture: Northgate High School
A display of some of the pupil's work during Black History Month. Picture: Northgate High School

In History, a group of Year 9 pupils were working on various projects as part of the prize.

These included a group highlighting how to study the history of the Nazis and the Holocaust without anti-German sentiment; one project delved into misogyny and sexism; one was on hate crime iconography; another group explored mental health; while a final group worked on a project for the UK’s History of Disability Month.

One pupil, who also wrote poetry for Black History Month, was putting pen to paper once again for the project.

The teams also used Frank Bright’s story to aid their research.

Wellbeing project with the University of Cambridge

Another project hopes to increase student wellbeing.

Pupils Kaci-Jean, Zahraa Islam, Maja, Chloe and Lucy are working with Univerity of Cambridge PhD student Lauren Cross to help people their age become healthier and happier.

This is focusing on two main areas – student’s mental health, and managing weight.

The project began in October 2022 and will run until 2025.

The group of students working with the University of Cambridge. Picture: Northgate High School
The group of students working with the University of Cambridge. Picture: Northgate High School

The group have been sharing their opinions, priorities and views on young people’s health and how researchers can better connect with secondary school students.

This was done by bringing together evidence, looking at what has been done, assessing the current climate and what’s missing and finally looking at solutions and how they can make things better, they said.

Lauren said: “It’s really important to involve young people in the research process. Nobody better understands what it’s like to be a secondary school student right now.

Zahraa Islam, who volunteered in Bangladesh, is one of those working with Lauren. Picture: Ash Jones
Zahraa Islam, who volunteered in Bangladesh, is one of those working with Lauren. Picture: Ash Jones

“The students have been brilliant to work with. I’ve been really impressed with how thoughtful and insightful their contributions have been. The research they have done has proven to be very helpful.”

Kaci-Jean said the experience was eye-opening, and that it was great to be making a difference to people in their age group.

“There tends to be one set view of a certain disorder, but we’ve been able to give our opinions, and have asked people how they feel, which has allowed us to give an in-depth view on mental health rather than a general overview,” she said.

Zahraa said the collaboration was a good chance to learn about different fields to explore possible career choices in the future.

Community work in Bangladesh

Zahraa, whose family are from Bangladesh, has also done humanitarian work in the northeast of the country alongside the Al Tazid Foundation, which was set up to honour her grandfather.

Part of Zahraa's work in Bangladesh included digging tube wells. Picture: Northgate High School
Part of Zahraa's work in Bangladesh included digging tube wells. Picture: Northgate High School

With funding from Northgate, work the charity did included performing eye surgery to remove cataracts, digging wells and offering free healthcare.

Zahraa said: “We live in a very privileged country and we have so much to be grateful for, but there are many people who struggle.

“The experience was eye-opening as it was things affecting my own family and it was a really eye-opening experience.

“I’m fortunate enough to be given opportunities to make a difference. In the future I want to do more projects like this and make a real difference to people’s lives.

Zahraa said she wants to work in healthcare in the future and continue to work to improve people’s lives for the better.

And it’s not just the secondary school students involved in community projects.

Sixth Form projects

Mr Alexander with the Ipswich Town Foundation's post-16 programme students. Picture: Northgate High School
Mr Alexander with the Ipswich Town Foundation's post-16 programme students. Picture: Northgate High School

Many Sixth Form students give up their time for various projects.

John Alexander, the head of Sixth Form, said it brings in pupils from all across the region, from as far away as Wymondham or Essex.

He said he encouraged all Sixth Form pupils to get involved in volunteering schemes and enrichment programmes.

This could include community work or playing a sport.

“It’s great because it’s not just a cynical thing, doing it for their CVs – the pupils do it because they genuinely want to make a difference to the community,” he said.

One scheme Northgate Sixth Form is involved in is a befriending scheme for the elderly or those with dementia.

One student, Sneha, who is part of this programme and also a Sixth Form Ambassador, said: “The training is fantastic because it’s rewarding.

“We form bonds with the people we spend time with – and even if they may not remember us for long, it’s good to know we brought them joy in that short space of time.”

The Sixth form also hosts day-long events to learn more about other cultures and celebrate the diversity of the school, which includes sampling foods from other countries and turning up to school in outfits from different cultures, and it also has an agreement with the Ipswich Town Foundation for its Post-16 Education & Football Programme.

The Sixth form is also working with St John’s Church and the work they do with their food bank.

Mr Alexander added: “Schools are the heart of their communities and it’s important that we celebrate that. However, it’s also important that pupils feel a part of this community.

“Things like this are great for the students to do and the fact they’re eager for it is even better.”