'Forgotten Heroes' - how pupil designers created a national remembrance campaign - RSA

'Forgotten Heroes' - how pupil designers created a national remembrance campaign


  • Picture of Deborah Davidson
    Deborah Davidson
    Creative Development Director, North West Comino Consortium
  • Picture of Simon De Courcey
    Simon De Courcey
    Director of Cultural Capital, Falinge Park High School, Rochdale
  • Design
  • Education and learning

Falinge Park High School in Rochdale, UK responded to the RSA’s ‘Local Community’ Design brief with a campaign exploring and celebrating the contributions of Black and Asian soldiers in World War II - creating a lasting legacy and learning outcomes for pupils across the North-West.

At the heart of the education work of the Comino Foundation is the Socratic belief that ‘education should be the lighting of a flame; not the filling of a vessel’. We believe that real-life learning, developed through partnerships with people and places in worlds beyond school can motivate young people to discover their passion for education and for a positive future. We have a proud history of collaboration with the RSA, and the Pupil Design Awards (PDAs) align closely with our community’s educational values and practice.

Falinge Park High School sits at the centre of one of the North West’s most diverse and disadvantaged communities with 43 different languages spoken within the school. 38.8% of Falinge Park High School students receive free school meals and 76.35% of students speak English as an Additional Language. 41% of students are recognised as Pupil Premium and 15.3% of Falinge Park High School students have SEND status.

In 2021, Falinge Park High School Citizenship, Religious Education and PSHE teacher Vacas Ahmed led a team of the school’s inspirational ‘Diversity Ambassadors’ to develop an award-winning idea in response to a PDA brief to develop a product or service that would promote inclusive attitudes in school and the wider local community.

The group decided to investigate the hidden contribution of thousands of BAME young men from across the Commonwealth who fought for Britain and the Allies in World War Two and to develop a platform that could make this a public campaign that pupils and staff in school could get behind.

The recognition and honour and respect paid by these young people is humbling.

Daughter of Helen Taichner, a holocaust survivor the children studied with Manchester’s Jewish Museum Judith Wetheime

Ambassadors reached out to locate and interview ‘Forgotten Heroes’ from across the town of Rochdale, and then to create a website annexe with personal oral history narratives and video interviews about the war experience of these extraordinary veterans.

A gold-award winning project with a legacy

The campaign was not only covered by local press, but became a national campaign adopted by British Futures, and reported on in all the major broadsheets across the UK. Not surprisingly the group won the RSA PDA Gold Award for 2021 and both pupils and staff attended the RSA’s superb awards event at their London headquarters where they shared how inspirational the experience of working on the project had been for them and for the wider school community.

It was awe inspiring to watch social cohesion in action, at Manchester Jewish Museum this afternoon. How amazing to see this group of Year 3 students from Abraham Moss Community Primary, reflect with huge empathy on the terrible experiences of German Jewish children during World War Two, to a rapt audience of elders from both local Muslim and local Jewish communities

Comino Foundation

However, the story did not end at the RSA PDA Awards Ceremony. Recognising the benefits from the project for Falinge Park High School, the school’s Director of Cultural Capital, Simon De Courcey, suggested taking the project model to other schools in the NWCC community to run a collaborative multi-school version in 2022 and 2023.

Simon worked with Citizenship, PHSE and History teachers from Sacred Heart RC Primary School, Abraham Moss Community Primary School, Ladybridge High School and St Gabriel’s RC High School and their pupil communities to drive a larger and even more impactful project during this academic year.

In each participating school a class or year group of pupils coordinated a call-out for their local ‘Forgotten Heroes’ and were responsible for interviewing them to develop and promote their story. This time the impact of the stories was amplified through the creation of artworks, exhibitions and videos which have become iconic talking points within each school’s local community.

I have learnt that we should always honour the contributions that everyone made during the wars and learn from the past as it has the possibility to shape our future.

Abraham Moss Community Primary School Year 3 pupil

Learning outcomes for pupils

  • Through the project both high school and primary pupils gained an understanding of the historical context of the World Wars and explicitly considered the approaches, relevant research methods and required skills for this project at a level appropriate for their key stage.
  • Pupils from Falinge Park High School, Sacred Heart RC Primary, Ladybridge High School understood and celebrated the diversity of the British Armed forces and are able to share their understanding across school and into their own local community.
  • Pupils from Falinge Park High School collaborated with The Royal British Legion, British Futures and Rochdale's religious leaders.
  • Pupils from Abraham Moss Community Primary, worked closely with Manchester’s Jewish Museum to create an exhibition which looked at the experience of Jewish children in Germany during World War Two; alongside presenting their work at an event attended by both Jewish and Muslim communities and elders at the Cheetham Hill Synagogue.
  • Pupils from Sacred Heart Community Primary worked with local graffiti celebrity, Aske and filmmaker Dan Tewe to produce a building-sized mural of their ‘Forgotten Heroes’ on one of the schools’ walls.

What the teachers thought

(This was) a truly remarkable project to be a part of and one both the pupils and I will remember fondly for a long time.

KS3 Lead Teacher Abraham Moss Community Primary School

It was extremely special, especially for some adults and guests to hear about their own families being researched and celebrated.

St Gabriel’s RC High School Project Lead Teacher

About the North West Comino Consortium (NWCC)

The North West Comino Consortium (NWCC) is a Community of Practice funded and managed by the small Comino Foundation team to work with partner schools across Greater Manchester who share our ethos and aspiration for broad, balanced and pupil centred education.

The consortium partners work together to pilot projects, programmes and pedagogies that help young people experience learning in settings that link the curriculum to real life.

Get your school involved in the Pupil Design Award

  • Are you an educator? Check out the Pupil Design and Student Design Awards briefs for 2023-24 and contact us if you want to know more about how to implement the awards at your organisation. 
  • Know an educator? Spread the word about this year's awards to your networks to enable as many students and pupils to get involved

Pupil Design Awards

The RSA Pupil Design Awards is a free, national design award programme for secondary school and sixth-form pupils aged 11-17.

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