Welcome to the first update of the year from the Thomas Wolsey 550 project.

I can’t believe it’s coming up to a year ago in March that the initiative was launched on a very snowy day in Ipswich!

A huge amount has happened since then, and we are thrilled by all of the enthusiasm and support for the project. Thank you so much.

Ipswich Star: The Wolsey 550 project has been embraced by the town, says TerryThe Wolsey 550 project has been embraced by the town, says Terry (Image: Wolsey 550)

The thousands of people who saw or participated in the cardboard reconstruction of Wolsey’s College on the Cornhill in October must have been amazed as I was.

It was absolutely massive! Thank you to Spill Festival for organising that incredible event which our town will never forget.

Ipswich Star: The Spill Festival's replica of Wolsey's college in cardboard was much admiredThe Spill Festival's replica of Wolsey's college in cardboard was much admired (Image: Charlotte Bond)

An integral part of the Wolsey 550 project is the education and youth-focused programme involving schools, colleges and organisations across Ipswich.  

Young people are literally making their mark on the town through their involvement with the project.

I love walking through the Buttermarket and seeing the beautiful mural created by students from Suffolk One. It has cheered up that part of town and has a very powerful message about safety in the town centre.

Young people, their education and future are at the very heart of the Wolsey 550 programme.

Wolsey was far-sighted in understanding the importance of education, way ahead of his time. He realised young people learn best when they enjoy school, saying: “Pleasure should mingle with study so the child may think learning an amusement rather than a toil.”

Despite the Tudor language, I think the message gets across.

Towards the end of last year, we launched our schools workshops with Matthew Applegate at the Creative Computing Club, which are suitable for students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and children with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs.

The young students are invited to create their own virtual, digital version of Ipswich in Thomas Wolsey’s time, using computer gaming technology. The feedback from children doing these workshops has been incredibly uplifting.

In December, Year One students from St. Mark’s Primary School decorated the Wolsey 550 ‘I would like to be’ tree at the St. Mary-le-Tower Christmas Tree Festival. 

The children created decorations depicting their aspirations, from hairdressers to animal patrol officers, and from firefighters to mechanics. The youngsters showed they were brimming with ambition and creativity!

This new term, the education programme is jam-packed with more digital skills workshops; creative workshops from Ipswich-based theatre company Gecko Theatre; and a secondary school-focused careers programme making the headlines.

Ipswich Star: Cliff Lane pupils enjoying a Wolsey 550 educational projectCliff Lane pupils enjoying a Wolsey 550 educational project (Image: Wolsey 550)

We are thrilled that award-winning Ipswich-based Gecko theatre has begun to deliver exciting and dynamic workshops in local primary schools as part of the Wolsey 550 project. 

With a focus on encouraging young people to tell their own stories through sound and movement, the workshops offer pupils the opportunity to build their confidence and a sense of pride in their hometown, and help them communicate in ways that are accessible to all.

We are about to launch an exciting careers programme, which aims to give students in secondary and alternative provision schools an informal perspective on the contemporary world of work.

Wolsey went to school in Ipswich and famously went on to develop a career that was completely unprecedented - so the focus of this programme is to grow young people’s awareness of the wide variety of opportunities that exist in today’s world, to increase their sense of aspiration.

Informal talks by employers, visits to local workplaces and interactive workshops will showcase the breadth of career opportunities in our town and beyond. 

We want to shine a light in particular on jobs which tend to be under-represented in traditional careers programmes. 

Wolsey was a patron of the arts, so we especially want to showcase the careers that exist in Ipswich’s cultural and creative sector.

I think you’ll agree, it’s all really exciting and important stuff.

More details of the 2024 Wolsey 550 programme will follow in my next column! Thanks again to everyone for their support. We couldn’t do it without you.

If you would like to know more about the Wolsey 550 schools programme, please go to www.thomaswolsey550.co.uk/schools - and follow us on social media at thomaswolsey550.