Pupils, staff and governors at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Barnard Castle were delighted to welcome Bishop Stephen into their school to celebrate the school’s passion for looking after our environment, which coincides with World Environment Day.

The morning commenced with a warm welcome from Mrs Box, the headteacher at St Mary’s, before the school’s climate change champions set the scene for the day, outlining the hard work that St Mary’s pupils and staff have dedicated towards achieving the Live Simply Award over the past several months.

Their journey towards this achievement started in September 2023 when it was decided that the three points of focus would be to live simply, to live sustainably and to live in solidarity. These three pledges stem from the wider school community action plan, which aims to ensure that actions are small but effective, manageable and sustainable.

Mrs Box remarked that “It was wonderful to have Bishop Stephen visit, along with Fr Thomas and governors to celebrate and share our journey so far towards achieving CAFOD’s Live Simply Award. As part of World Environment Day we thought it was the perfect opportunity to celebrate achievements and remind ourselves of the work we have done and the impact our small steps can make both within our local community and global areas. The children and staff are passionate about looking after our Common Home, and recognise their responsibilities in helping to achieve this through living simply, sustainably and in solidarity. It links beautifully to the catholic ethos and culture of St Mary’s, and the children are taught important links to both our school virtues and the key principles of catholic social teaching.

I am incredibly proud of the energy, enthusiasm and inspiration of the children, staff, and wider school community in getting involved and doing our bit! We are hoping to inspire other schools and parishes to get involved too.

The school hopes to achieve the Live Simply Award this summer and were excited to share their progress to date with Bishop Stephen and Fr Thomas, their local parish priest.

As the presentation came to a close, Bishop Stephen was invited to say a few words before pupils were given the opportunity to ask questions of their special guest. It was wonderful to learn more about the Bishop’s hobbies, which included walks across the Northumberland coast and bird watching, much to the excitement of St Mary’s pupils, whose classes are each named after birds.

The pupils, staff and governors would like to thank Bishop Stephen for accepting their invitation to the celebration and hope that this will sow the seeds for many more visits to blossom in the future.