On Friday 24th September, Northgate High School and Dereham Sixth Form College welcomed members of the Dereham community, past members of staff and alumni to a very special event held at the school.

The Past, Present and Future’ exhibition showcased and celebrated over 100 years of education at the school in various guises. A large array of photographs, artefacts and work from throughout the decades were on display for guests to explore and reflect on the history of Northgate, Dereham Sixth Form College and DESA in the community.

As part of the celebration, current Northgate and Dereham Sixth Form students displayed their talents with drama and music performances, which depicted significant moments in the school’s history, including the delayed school opening in 1915 because of a Zeppelin and in more recent history, school closures due to covid-19. Our catering students were also involved in the evening, creating canapés and refreshments, which were themed around old school dinner staples, under the supervision of Mr Tim Fair, Head of Catering and Dr Tim Kinnaird, Chair of Governors and MasterChef finalist.

Staff from across all three institutions got involved in a variety of ways, and one member of staff, Mr Guy, teacher of History, has written a book detailing the history of the school and its place in the Dereham community. He was inspired by the archives, but in particular the book “Youth in the Making: The History Of Dereham Senior School 1915-40” written by then-Headmaster Mr W Tebbutt.

The event gave us the opportunity to invite members of the local community to celebrate with us. Northgate and Dereham Sixth Form has a long and successful history of connecting with those around us. From careers- and financial-advice, to sporting expertise or matters of faith and culture, the students at Northgate and Dereham Sixth have gained much from visits from those who have generously given of their time to come into lessons. The Police and local councillors have proactively visited the school for many years to ensure that the connections between us are strong.

During the evening, we were very privileged to share with guests the news of our recent Laboratory School accreditation with the University of Bolton, and the role it will play in the future of the school and college. We are the first educational establishment in Norfolk to be invited to become a Laboratory School.

Working with The University of Bolton, the Laboratory School programme is an international initiative which enables us to build upon an already strong foundation of good practice through research-based development of classroom practice, to ensure every student has the best learning experience possible during their time at the school and college.

A central element of being a Laboratory School is working with partner schools in other parts of the UK, as well as in Australia, China, India, Sweden and the USA. This gives us the opportunity not only to share our strengths and successes, but to learn from those who have gone before us and become even better equipped.

A key part of our approach is the use of coaching as a way of helping both staff and students set long term goals for improving their skills in learning. For staff this means having the chance to work closely with teachers from other areas of the school and other schools to develop high quality learning strategies for lessons. For students, trained sixth form students from our College work closely with our younger high school students to develop ambitious goals for their future, and to put those ambitions into practice.

During the summer of 2021 extensive surveys amongst staff, staff, parents and carers and other stakeholders, as well as invitational visits from other educational leaders, enabled us to build a clear picture of life at Northgate High School and Dereham Sixth Form College. This is the foundation upon which the Laboratory School scheme will build.

John Baumber, Head of the International Centre for Educational Enhancement at the University of Bolton, said ‘It is always a pleasure and a privilege to come here because of that sense of wellbeing and the relationships that there is at Northgate.