The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have carried out their first joint public engagement this year, by visiting School21 in Stratford, east London, to highlight the rollout to secondary schools of the Mentally Healthy Schools initiative. It is the couple’s first public appearance in three months, and the first since the Oprah interview with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex aired.
In the first week of students being back in class, Prince William and Catherine heard how the children, aged four to 18, will have now access to lessons on tackling anxiety and depression. This has been funded by £800,000 from the couple’s Royal Foundation.
The Mentally Healthy Schools initiative is a resource available online, also funded by the Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The Duchess of Cambridge launched the initiative in 2018 during a visit to Roe Green Junior School in Kingsbury in north West London.
The couple, who have three children themselves, spoke to the students in the playground during their play session. Some were digging for a treasure in a sand pit.
“Have you found any treasure yet?” Kate asked the pupils. She also asked the children what it was like to be back at school: “Is it fun to be back with all your friends?”
The Duke was seen helping build a wall in the playground’s construction area after sitting down on the floor and taking directions from a youthful construction manager, a little girl. The Prince joked that he had been taking orders from the young construction manager, saying with laughter to the teachers: “I was just doing what I was told.”
The Duke and Duchess then joined teachers and staff involved in the Mentally Healthy Schools project to talk about its aims and impact on children. They sat outdoors in chairs, at a safe distance, and wearing masks.
Andrea Silvain, deputy head of the middle school, said the last year of lockdowns had brought teachers and parents closer together, and families had appreciated the help that the Mentally Healthy Schools website had given. “We’ve had some very positive feedback from parents,” she told the royal visitors.
“People have been through this lockdown together,” William said. “It’s a really useful tool.”
Charlie Dilger, head of inclusion at the school, said: “We want our young people to enjoy time with their mates. We want children who are open about their feelings.”
The Duchess has previously spoken about the struggles of homeschooling, highlighting maths hasn’t been her strongest subject when helping her children. She has praised teachers for doing a ‘fantastic job’ during the pandemic. William and Catherine have carried out previous engagements from Norfolk, both at Anmer Hall and Sandringham itself.
The visit marks the first public appearance for Prince William and Kate since Prince Harry and Meghan’s bombshell interview at the weekend.
A journalist asked the Duke during the visit if he had spoken to his brother since. “No, I haven’t spoken to him yet, but I will do.”
Harry said their relationship was ‘one of space’ since the Sussexes decided to step back from royal duties in January 2020.
It was also claimed that someone in the family raised ‘concerns’ about the potential skin tone of the couple’s children. A follow up question came quickly: “We are very much not a racist family.”
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) March 11, 2021
William’s words today have become the first public comment by a member of the Royal Family about the allegations made by the Sussexes, after Prince Charles ignored questions at engagements on Tuesday. An official statement came from The Queen on Wednesday; it stated the claims of racism were ‘concerning’ and the matter is set to be dealt with privately.