Royal Visit


It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone connected with the College that thetour royal visit from HRH The Countess of Wessex was such a positive experience.  Everyone from the cleaners and site officers, students, PA’s, staff  and Governors had done a first-rate job in preparing for the big day down to the tiniest detail. The College looked great – modern, well-presented, showcasing outstanding work from students all across the curriculum – and the students were ready and willing to smile and wave flags and generally do the College proud in making the Countess feel welcome. So it was certainly no surprise that the day went so well, but you still feel the relief when the Countess departed in her helicopter, clearly having enjoyed herself very much and leaving with such a positive impression of all the great work that has gone into making Arthur Mellows an outstanding school.

HRH HelicopterAs the rumble of helicopter blades sounded over the school on the dot of ten, you could feel the tension grow as Mr Sandeman tried to recall the correct greeting protocols and the Wittering students assembled by the College entrance nervously waved their flags. But the moment the Countess appeared, smiling, relaxed and taking the time to speak to students, everyone was put at ease and you could sense that this was going to be a special day. The tour continued on to the new Refectory where the Cucina team clearly impressed the Countess with the high quality and range of food, and you could almost sense her disappointment that her busy schedule prevented her from sampling the food on offer. Her easy manner and genuine interest in all aspects of ICT school life immediately allowed the many people with whom she spoke to relax, as her security team glanced anxiously at their watches once they understood that the Countess was clearly enjoying her visit and wasn’t likely to be rushing off to her next engagement anytime soon. In ICT, there was initial concern that Mr Dignall was just letting his class play Pacman, but it quickly transpired  that they had created the games themselves, and so all was not lost. Moving on, the Countess  took a particular interest in the excellent display of Design Technology work, before chatting to Performing Arts students in the Auditorium.

Quite how the security detail coped with the idea of the Countess wandering around a Science lab with multiple Bunsen burners is not clear, but the Countess seemed to have absolute confidence in the teachers and students as she chatted away, before visiting the new Special Educational Needs facilities. As patron of the Autistic Society, she took great interest in the great work that our dedicated team put into SEN provision, and she clearly had a great rapport with the students. It was clear that she was well informed, and was sufficiently impressed to comment that the work of our Special Educational Needs Department could serve as a model for other schools.

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The tour concluded with a presentation from students involved in the highly successful Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme – of which HRH’s husband Prince Edward is Patron – followed by a highly entertaining speech from Mr Sandeman before the assembled dignitaries, including former Warden Mr Mann, and a lovely speech from the Countess in which she enthusiastically expressed her thanks for the warmth of her visit and explained how much she had enjoyed her visit, and how impressed she was with the confidence and high quality work of our students. Finally, a plaque was unveiled to commemorate the official opening of the new buildings, and it was all over. For the second time in a mere matter of months, the College, its staff and students had delivered when it really mattered and we received a full endorsement of all the hard work that has gone into turning Arthur Mellows into an outstanding educational establishment.

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Who knows, the College could have done it so well we could be chosen for another royal visit in the future!