Dora Love Prize inspires students to take action against discrimination

  • Date

    Fri 23 Jun 23

The Gilberd School students receive runners-up award

Students from Debenham High School in Suffolk won the Dora Love Prize for their inspiring work to tackle discrimination and prejudice with St Helena School and The Gilberd School in Colchester receiving runners-up awards.

This is the 11th year of the Dora Love Prize and this was a record year for entries with 30 schools from across Essex and Suffolk taking part in the induction day and 19 taking part in the prize evening where young people present their projects. The event has an international dimension thanks to the participation (through a video submission) of Collingwood School in West Vancouver, Canada.

The projects ranged from workshops in primary schools, thought-provoking assemblies and community days to podcasts, films, art displays, websites and social media campaigns. With many projects involving multiple activities.

The Debenham team was unable to attend on the night and will receive its award at a future date, while students from St Helena School and The Gilberd School were presented with their awards on the night by Deputy Lieutenant of Essex Simon Brice.

Professor Rainer Schulze, the founder and coordinator of the Prize, said: “The diversity and quality of the projects by all the schools is absolutely stunning. The students did exactly what we hope the prize will inspire them to do – link their learning from history with activism against discrimination and persecution. The Dora Love Prize is about active citizenship and helps students to take action and be responsible and responsive citizens.”

The Dora Love Prize, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2022, is a school citizenship initiative informed by the Holocaust. It asks students to develop projects connecting what they learn about the Holocaust to the world around them, and to take action against identiy-based prejudice, discrimination, violence and genocide.

The winning project by Debenham High School students was inspired by studying the experience of Roma and Sinti communities in the Holocaust. The students decided to look at how Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities experience prejudice today in the UK and developed displays, films, assemblies and learning materials to promote better understanding of their culture and history. They also decided to campaign for schools in Suffolk – including Debenham High – to The Gypsy, Traveller, Roma, Showmen and Boaters’ Pledge for Schools which aims to improve access, retention, and outcomes.

Chair of the judging panel, Dora’s daughter Janet Love, praised the school for taking a stand on the Pledge. She said: “We believe it is something which deserves a huge amount of support."

She added: “Debenham High School did a fantastic job by focusing on an issue and bringing us the culture, the history, the food, the music of a community which is still so deeply discriminated against even now. We found the presentation informative, innovative and a hugely important contribution.”

Head of History at Debenham High School, Helen Spurling, said: ""We are absolutely delighted that the panel thought our entry to be worthwhile and a success.

"There’s still lots going on in school as we complete our activities during this month of celebration. We shall do so with vigour!"

The Gilberd was recognised for a powerful mix of practical action including art projects in primary schools, thought-provoking poetry and research into ordinary people who stood up to injustice. This included the grandfather of one of the students who was sent to Stutthof Concentration Camp in occupied Poland after being captured by the Germans, the same one Dora Love was deported to.

Janet said: “We thought the presentation was enormously powerful. The strong presence of personal experiences from students was able to cover so many different topics from racism to mental health. There was so much creativity and we really appreciated the poetry.”

History teacher Dr Jonathan Theobald said the Dora Love Prize illustrated the power of history and many students were inspired to go on to study the subject at A Level afterwards. He said: “You can see the importance of this project to the students. We have taken part in the Dora Love Prize for a number of years, but this group has been incredible – they have just run with it.”

St Helena School students focused on the impact of economic discrimination to raise awareness and find ways to take action. This included interviewing people about their efforts to make a positive difference, developing a podcast around this and developing a collaborative art project with Colchester Royal Grammar School and Paxman Academy.

Janet said: “St Helena students focused on an area of discrimination – poverty – which is so often ignored, but it is so prevalent in our society. We thought there is so much work being done to carry this forward and go out into the community and appreciated the collaborative work with other schools on the art project – all of which we found very inspiring.”

St Helena History teacher Amy Cross said: “I am so proud of the students. They did all of this work because they genuinely care. Doing the collaboration with other schools was also really important to them. This is just the start as they want to keep looking for ways to actually help people.”

The Prize’s patron, Frank Bright MBE, was unable to attend in person this year but guests watched a mini-documentary of him telling his story of arriving in and surviving Auschwitz concentration camp.

Professor Andrew Le Seuer, Executive Dean for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, said: “At Essex, we are incredibly proud of the Dora Love Prize, and what it has achieved. To date, it has inspired over 1,000 young people, giving them the knowledge, tools and confidence to take action against hatred wherever they see it.”