Highgate royal visit: Earl of Wessex Prince Edward opens Channing School's new building
PUBLISHED: 14:07 03 December 2015 | UPDATED: 14:07 03 December 2015
A top-performing Highgate school played host to Prince Edward the Earl of Wessex yesterday as he officially opened its sixth-form centre and sports hall.
Cracking jokes throughout the relaxed royal visit to Channing School, the Queen’s third son met both the youngest and oldest pupils before unveiling a plaque.
It was the first time the school in The Bank had ever received a royal guest in its 130-year history.
In a speech to pupils, staff, governors and alumni, he said: “Congratulations for all the many varied things you are doing here, over and beyond your work in the classroom.
“These things are the passions you develop that will see you through life and beyond.
“But I’ve really come here today to unveil this plaque. I see there’s an air of huge expectation, but I have to warn you that while being unique, it will not necessarily be the highlight that has ever happened in your life.
“But what I would like you to all to do is pretend, pretend that it is the most exciting thing that has happened in the 130-year history of this school.”
The visit began with the prince meeting reception class pupils before talking with teenagers who took part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, of which the earl is a trustee.
Distinguished guests and all 790 pupils of the school were then ushered into the expansive new sports hall for an opening ceremony, with the prince entering to the sound of the school orchestra playing Music for the Royal Fireworks by Handel.
In an emotional speech to pupils, headteacher Barbara Elliott said: “We always knew Channing had potential but despite being in a beautiful setting here in Highgate, we knew our pupils deserved even better. So today we pay tribute to the architects of this new building.
“Thanks go to [architects] BuckleyGrayYeoman but I really mean the architects of the future and the inspiration for this building, and they are sitting right here.
“For it’s our pupils who inspire us and are the inspiration for Channing generations to come.”
The prince was handed gifts by junior school and senior school head girls, including the Conabor Badge - usually reserved for pupils who show exceptional dedication and fortitude.
And the earl once again showed off his sense of humour, curtseying after senior head girls Emily Reader and Imogen Phillips performed one to him.
Chair of governors Cindy Leslie said: “This is the fist time in Channing School’s 130-year history that a member of the British royal family has visited us. We are particularly pleased to welcome the Earl of Wessex.”
Channing School needs to raise more than £1million to finish off its ambitious development project with the building of a performing arts centre.
The centre is set to be completed within the next two years.