20th January 2023 | Royal Visits to Surrey

Royal Visit to Connaught Junior School

HRH The Countess of Wessex visited to Connaught Junior School in Bagshot on Thursday 19th Jan 2023, to open the school’s new STEAM Lab, a dedicated space for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths, and to help the school celebrate their 60 year anniversary.

Connaught Junior School was built as a secondary in 1962, which accounts for its large size and extensive grounds. It became a middle school in 1971, morphing over time into the junior school it is today.

Representing the Lord-Lieutenant, Deputy Lieutenant Mrs Joosje Hamilton met The Countess of Wessex and presented the Headteacher, Siobhan McGann. Also in attendance were Jon Hills, the CEO of TAMAT, Romano Dyerson, The Chair of Governors, Fiona Torley, The vice Chair of Governors, Andreas Sistig, the local vicar and Helen Whitlock, The Mayor of Surrey Heath. The Countess also met 4 of the Year 6 Captains who chatted with her about being Captains and what life is like in Year 6 at Connaught. Children in Years 3 and 4 waved to welcome The Countess to the school.

The tour of the school started at the STEAM Lab where Her Royal Highness met STEAM Ambassadors from across the whole school who were busy making cheesecakes. The children spoke about the plans for the newly built STEAM Lab and how this dedicated space is going to enhance their education. The STEAM Lab has been named after Polly Appleton-Jones who was the Science Lead at the school until she fell ill with Leukaemia and passed away last year.  Polly’s parents were at school and spent a few quiet moments with The Countess.

The next stop was the pottery room where Emma Daulby, the class teacher and Carrie Gough, a TA, were with a group Year 5s who were very focussed on making 60 year anniversary tiles out of clay. Her Royal Highness sat down and joined in, creating her own tile and chatting with the children.

Wellbeing is a huge part of life at Connaught and we were keen to share how we link positive mental health with physical exercise. Year 5 children were on the astroturf leading the dancing with Year 3 following. The Countess even joined in which thrilled the children. This happens every day as part of Early Morning Movement along with walking and talking with a friend or running around the Golden Mile Track. We want children moving to set them up well for the day. Katherine Saunders, the Deputy Head and Emily Littlewood, The Inclusion Leader, talked her through the reasoning behind this and the impact it has.

Her Royal Highness  planted a tree with Fiona Torley and some of the Eco Council to mark The Queen’s Green Canopy initiave. The Eco Councillors chose the tree, a cherry blossom, and talked about projects they are working on at school, such as composting with waste food and highlighting the dangers of plastics on the environment.

Toffee the School Dog had to make an appearance and she happily did tricks for The Countess, including high 5 and speaking (barking) on command. Toffee has a great impact on wellbeing at Connaught, alongside Bubbles the rabbit and Poggy and Gizmo the guinea pigs.

The next stop was the Computer Suite. Some Year 4 children (with Year 6 helpers) were doing some web design on the The Duke of Connaught, for whom the school was named. Sam Stevens taught this session.

In the hall, Andreas said a few words and a lovely prayer about the importance of family and friends and made a special dedication to Polly. The Countess also said a few words and invited three Year 3 children onto the stage to help her unveil the plaque created to mark the occasion by Charlie McGann.

As it is The Countess’s birthday on 20th January, she was presented with a cake, a plate made in the pottery room by a Year 5 pupil and a bunch of flowers. She was sung Happy Birthday by Stevie Wonder by the children.

The last stop before she left was at a space created outside in memory of Sydnee Hempson, a pupil who passed away from cancer. HRH spent some time with her parents and Katherine Saunders, the Deputy Head, who was very close to the family, which meant a great deal to them.

The Year 3s and 4s were once again stood at the windows to wave her off and she departed after a memorable visit.

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