Pupils from a Peterlee secondary school joined His Majesty The King, The Queen Consort and 750 school children and young people from across the UK to celebrate Commonwealth Day at Westminster Abbey. St Bede’s Catholic School and Byron Sixth Form, which is part of Bishop Chadwick Catholic Education Trust, was invited to attend the Royal event, after several pupils won awards in the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition.

Last June, the school entered a significant number of pupils into the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition, the oldest international writing competition for schools and youth groups. There were a fantastic 27 winners altogether from the secondary school, including one gold and several silver and bronze.

“The pupils wrote wonderful essays about inspirational leaders and people in their lives,” said Lucy Morris, English teacher at St Bede’s. “This was an incredible achievement which was recognised by an invitation to attend the Commonwealth Day Service. We had a fantastic time with some pupils visiting London for the first time. The pupils commented on how surreal it was to see the King, Prince William and Princess of Wales.

The pupils also enjoyed a mention on former Spice Girl Geri Horner’s Instagram stories.

Lucy Crinson, 13, a Year 9 pupil, said: “My favourite part of the day was the service at Westminster Abbey, especially seeing the different dance styles as I am a dancer too. The Abbey was beautiful inside. It is a day I will never forget.

Paranyaa Jeyanathan, 12, a Year 8 pupil, said: “My favourite part was walking through London and seeing the pretty sights. I loved seeing Big Ben and hearing all the facts about it from Mr Johnson who came with us on the trip.”

Organised by the Royal Commonwealth Society, the Commonwealth Day Service is the world’s premier, public event to celebrate the Commonwealth of Nations and provides an opportunity to focus attention on the voluntary association of 56 countries and its commitment to promoting democracy, human rights, the rule of law and equality for its 2.5 billion citizens.

The annual event, which was broadcast live on BBC One and BBC World Service, is held at Westminster Abbey and this year’s theme was ‘Forging a sustainable and peaceful common future’.

The event had multiple performances from groups from all over the Commonwealth including a ballet group from Rwanda, a choir from Cyprus and an award-winning saxophonist,” added Miss Morris. “The event launched the focus for the Commonwealth in 2023 which is ‘A youth-powered Commonwealth’; looking at young people’s influence in society, especially with action against climate change.

Louise Old, Director of English at Bishop Chadwick Catholic Education Trust, said: “Having 27 competition winners from one of our Trust secondary schools is an astonishing achievement and testament to the hardworking, creative pupils at St Bede’s who have been supported by their teachers every step of the way. A proud moment for pupils and their families, teachers, school and Trust.

For more information about BCCET, please visit www.bccet.org.uk.