Heritage Schools Case Study: Building the London Central Mosque

KS2 pupils used the John Laing Photographic Collection and an oral history approach to learn more about a significant place of worship.

Where: Gateway Academy, London and London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre

Who: Year 6 students

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The film is also available on Vimeo.


Intended outcomes

  • Pupils to understand what a photographic archive is & how it can be used as a source of primary evidence
  • Pupils to devise historically-valid questions to build an oral history based on London Central Mosque
  • Pupils to develop greater knowledge about a familiar building and gain understanding of how important aspect of their local heritage relates to the national story
  • Pupils develop a sense of pride in where they live

What we did

  • Pupils studied images from the John Laing Photographic Collection and thought about “What makes a photo historical? What do you know/can you infer from a photograph?” Using these images, pupils learned about Laing’s importance in major building projects, across Britain, after 1945.
  • Pupils studied images of the London Central Mosque under construction. They were asked to select just three images from the collection and explain their choices, using the same method Historic England had used to select images for the website.
  • Pupils were asked to imagine interviewing someone that built the London Central Mosque and what would be interesting/ relevant / open questions? Pupils worked in small groups to prepare questions.
  • Pupils interviewed former Laing employees: Thomas Lai, John McGuiness and Roger Bridgeman.
  • Pupils and Laing employees went to visit the London Central Mosque where we were greeted by the Director of the Mosque and told a short history of the building and its context as a place of worship.
  • Pupils were given a chance to explore the building further and some created their own artistic responses by sketching, taking photographs or using water colour pencils to colour archive images.


  • Taking 90 pupils, and a significant number of adults, required a lot of pre-planning and management.
  • The Q & A session with the former Laing employees was planned as a carousel, with each speaker visiting a different classroom after 30 minutes. With time very limited, this posed a logistical challenge but worked remarkably successfully.
  • The afternoon guided tours did not take place as had been expected. On the day, the Mosque was visited by 90 Italian Priests, which left us without a tour guide. The BNG Outreach Officer had some activities prepared, just in case, and the Heritage Schools Manager, HE staff and teachers took groups of pupils on short tours to study the architecture more closely.


  • Most pupils were impeccably behaved in the Q & A session with the former Laing employees. Their questions were thoughtful and relevant. Most impressive was how they adapted their questions to the different guests and generated supplementary questions based on the answers they were given.
  • The three former Laing employees were excellent speakers, each bringing a different perspective and set of experiences to share with the pupils. The students engaged with the Archive and enjoyed seeing a key local building - part of their own community - in a new light.
  • The Mosque was flexible in allowing pupils and adults to choose whether to participate in prayers, observe from the back, or not take part in that specific part of the visit.

Next steps/extension activities

  • Pupils complete historical accounts of the Mosque, utilising their oral history notes and archive images
  • Pupils interview other members of their local community
  • Find out more about oral history from the Oral History Society
  • Identify other important local buildings for the school to study – for example, Lord’s Cricket Ground
  • Find out more about Local Heritage Curriculum Planning