The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge delighted teachers at a Lancashire school as they thanked them for their dedication during the coronavirus crisis, in a video call on Wednesday afternoon. Prince William and Kate spoke with staff and children at Casterton Primary Academy, which is located close to Burnley General Hospital and has a high percentage of pupils whose parents are key workers.
WATCH: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge surprise teachers and students at Lancashire school
It might be the Easter holidays, but the school has remained open this year, due to COVID-19, so that teachers can dedicate their time to helping the children of key workers and those most vulnerable at this time. Casterton Primary Academy has remained open as a hub for five local academies - Castercliff Primary Academy, Pendle Primary Academy, Colne Primet Academy, West Craven High School and Casterton Primary Academy - that all are part of the Pendle Education Trust.
William and Kate chatted to pupils about their Easter holiday activities
Kate, wearing a mustard-coloured jumper, told one teacher: "Well done honestly to you and everyone who's in during this time. It must be such a relief for all the parents, who are key workers, to know that the normality is there for their children - they've got the structure and they've got a safe place for them to be, so really really well done to all of you."
William, dressed in a blue shirt, added: "We just want to say a huge thank you to you guys and well done in keeping it all going. Please pass on many messages of support for all the staff and all the volunteers - they’re doing a great job."
During the video call, pupils wearing bunny ears showed the Duke and Duchess their creations from taking part in Easter crafting activities, including bonnets and decorated biscuits. Several children had also made portraits of their key worker parents and explained why they were proud of them.
One student said their mum worked for the NHS, to which William said it was "a very important job" and that they should be proud. Another pupil said that their dad was a packer in a bakery, to which William replied: "That's a very important job too, keeping everyone well fed." The Duchess said that "it must be nice making new friends," to the group. The children made a special request to the couple, asking if they would come and visit all five schools when the lockdown was over and Kate laughingly promised, adding: "We are seriously impressed by all your hard work and volunteering."
The children showed the royal couple portraits of their parents
William and Kate heard about the difficulties that schools, staff and children are currently facing because of the coronavirus crisis, as well as the measures the school is taking to help pupils and their families, including food deliveries and mental health provisions. The Pendle Education Trust is providing meal vouchers for Free School Meals families, which makes up 25 per cent of the families in the Trust.
Anita Ghidotti, Chief Executive, Pendle Education Trust, said of the children: "They couldn’t believe it. It was just absolutely fantastic. They couldn’t believe their eyes. They brought in lots of things to show them. Last week, we were still doing things like maths and other schoolwork. But this week we have been making a real effort to do some fun things. We have been trying to find the positive in all of this and actually, these children are really loving being here. They are making new friends or seeing kids they don't see very often".
William and Kate thanked teachers and staff during the call
The Cambridges also spoke with a School Project Manager from children's mental health charity, Place2Be, which has worked with schools in the Pendle Education Trust for ten years. The charity (of which Kate has been patron since 2013), has adapted its usual model of school-based support by providing phone 'check ins' for young people and parents of younger children where pupils are not in school.
Leala Porter, Project Manager at Pendle Primary Academy, Place2Be, said: "We were so massively grateful that they took the time to call us. There's been a genuine warmth throughout the school today with the children. The couple talked a lot about our northern spirit and thanked us for all we were doing. It meant such a lot."
William and Kate's eldest children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, have been home-schooling since the end of March, when the UK lockdown was imposed. The royal youngsters attend Thomas's school in Battersea, west London, where they are in Year 2 and Reception respectively.
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