On the 15th of March I went to represent University Academy Kidsgrove at St James’ Palace. Following the continued success of the Academy in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, I received an invitation to attend to volunteer my services as a Marshal. My role was to lead a group and to prepare them, to receive their awards, also aiding the VIP speaker – former British Olympic athlete Phil Brown, in allocating the award certificates.
The Palace was amazing! The Picture gallery was beautiful; the armory spectacular; the tapestry room inspiring and the throne room breathtaking. Each room had high ceilings with what seemed like every fixture clad in gold; expensive scarlet fabric, and many beautiful paintings of battles such as Trafalgar and Waterloo.
“You must greet him as Your Royal Highness or Sir, and end sentences with Sir”, I was told, and my preparation notes stated no bowing or curtseying would be necessary. We were all given our three minute warning, and everyone was asked to be quiet. The room was silent. A 100 Gold candidates, and 100 family members you could hear a pin drop in the room. We all stood waiting for some ‘big bouncer style security’ to swing the doors open and allow the Duke to be ushered in and out of this long room at speed.
The door opened quietly, two men in formal royal dress entered the room closely followed by a frail, but highly enthusiastic Duke of Edinburgh to greet the first people in the room – me!
The Steward directed His Royal Highness in my direction and said “Sir, this is Lee McCue of University Academy Kidsgrove” while 200 hundred people and a former Olympic athlete all focused their gaze in my direction. It was intense! He reached out his hand to me and said “Hello”. I could not believe it, having read the notes which stated how unlikely it was to make any physical contact, and he was offering me a handshake! I reached out, shook his hand and said “Hello Sir, it’s so good to meet you.” His handshake seemed to go on for ages.
“And what is it that you do?” he enquired. I responded “I’m an assessor and leader at a school that has become very successful in a short space of time Sir.” I went on to explain how we were the most successful center in the borough and North Staffordshire. He replied “And what else do you do?” I responded “I’m a teacher also Sir.” With a smile on his face and to the amusement of 200 people he stated “You manage to fit that into your spare time do you?” The parents and students were laughing, and in a very calm manner he said to me “Well done!” and then moved along the room speaking to parents and students enquiring of their experiences and successes. As he left he gave a wave and goodbye to us all which prompted the allocation of certificates.
I stood shoulder to shoulder with former Olympic Athlete Phil Brown and began to read the names of the twenty five people in my group, desperately trying not to get any names wrong as I began to breathe at a normal rate. I passed the certificates to Mr. Brown, who then allocated them with a beaming smile and a “Congratulations!” to every successful individual.
As we were due to depart the other three marshals and I were thanked, and applauded by the parents and participants, and as a token of appreciation were each presented with a Duke of Edinburgh pin by our groups, it’s amazing, you should see it!
It was so good to be invited, but it was so good knowing that the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is something that, we as an Academy haven’t just done well in, we’ve excelled in, and been the highest performing center, for two consecutive years in our borough.
Can I express my sincere thanks to Mrs Weaver, Mr Smith, Mrs Edgerton, and all the staff who have volunteered their time to expeditions and after school clubs. Also, to those staff in and around our community including the Youth Service staff John, Ginty and Judith, and of course to our amazing students who have completed their awards, giving so much of their time, and talent back to the people of Kidsgrove.