Less than a week on and reality strikes. Prince George is at school just up the street from us and yes someone has breached security. 4 days in and the prince is making headlines again (though I hope he’s oblivious to it).
My eldest daughter went quietly to a new secondary school last week. She was full of anticipation and excitement with a touch of anxiety. Much like the young prince I expect. She’s settling in, making friends and dealing with a whole stack of homework. For Prince George the eyes of the world turned to him on his first (and now fourth) day of school. We wish him well and hope he settles in quickly.
Schools are a vital a part of our lives and communities. Thomas’s Battersea school, where the young prince is attending, is actively involved in local life. We have enjoyed a long standing relationship with Thomas’s (and many other local schools) for many years. It would be easy for them to shut their doors and live in a bubble. But they have deliberately involved themselves in the local community. They support other local schools, community groups and charities with reading programmes, the Thomas’s Schools Foundation, community events, Make a Difference Day (MAD), volunteering and more.
Throughout the spring and summer terms, for example, groups of Year 6 pupils volunteer with us every week, providing a range of weekly entertainment for our older people. For example, we’ve seen theatrical performance, been entertained by bagpipes and the clarinet, sung songs from the 1940s and 50s, danced the jitterbug, had our ‘minds read’ and spoken with a ventriloquist. We look forward to Prince George continuing this tradition and coming to volunteer with us in a few years time.
Ben Thomas, now principal of the Thomas’s London Day Schools Group and one of our Trustees, wants his pupils to ‘look up and look around’, to broaden their horizons beyond their privileged backgrounds, which is vital if we as a society are to narrow the growing gap between rich and poor that we are seeing in too many of our communities across the country. This is none more clearly demonstrated than here in Battersea. With multi-million pound houses rubbing shoulder to shoulder with Council estates. Inequality was raised by local residents as their second greatest concern (after housing) in our recent ‘Community Wise’ survey.
The Settlement Movement, of which we have been a part of since 1924, was founded in the 1860s to draw attention to the plight of millions living and working in poverty in Victorian Britain. University students lived and worked in poor communities to experience first hand the impact of poverty. The idea was for them to take those experiences into their adult lives and bring about social change. The two most famous proponents being William Beveridge and Clement Atlee, who went onto create the Welfare State.
The idea and practice remains today, as Prince George will find out when he’s a bit older. Volunteering with us at KLS will, we hope, make a significant impression on our future king. So that when he reigns he too will strive for social change.