WATCH: Earl of Wessex visits Ballyclare High School

Prince Edward visited Ballyclare High School today to recognise the school’s involvement in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme.

Staff and students from the Rashee Road school, along with political and community representatives, greeted Prince Edward on his arrival.

Cllr John Scott, Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, greets Prince Edward on his arrival at Ballyclare High School. INNT 42-202-AM

Cllr John Scott, Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, greets Prince Edward on his arrival at Ballyclare High School. INNT 42-202-AM

The Earl was paying a visit to the school to celebrate the Diamond Anniversary of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme.

Award coordinator at Ballyclare High, Mr Martin Farquhar said: “Having Prince Edward visit today is recognition of the success of the award at Ballyclare High School. We have 140 pupils participating in the Bronze Award, 70 taking part in the Silver and around 50-60 completing the Gold Award every year.

“Students first got the opportunity to participate in the award at the school in 1982 and it has developed through the years. Pupils gain independence and a spirit for adventure. They also learn to help others and can become more creative through the skills section.

“Pupils enjoy the camping aspect, with expeditions being held in the Antrim Hills, the Mournes and Donegal, as well as a number of past pupils taking part in expeditions in Scotland and the Rockies.”

Commenting at the visit, Education Minister, Peter Weir said: “It is remarkable to have Prince Edward here today. There is a very strong commitment from the school for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. It is evident that the pupils are putting a lot back into their local community through the volunteering side of the award. I have heard how some pupils have been helping out at the Mid Antrim Animal Sanctuary and in old people’s homes.”

The DUP representative added: “The award has helped to build a character of leadership among pupils at the school. The award requires cooperation from landowners and quite often they would do their side of things behind the scenes. They don’t always get recognition for their help, so it is good to see a number of them here in attendance.”

Head Boy, Jack Lewis, is currently participating in the Gold Award. He said: “I am half way through my Gold Award. I did my expedition in Donegal and it worked out at around 25km each day, over a four day period.

“I am coaching the junior fundamental athletes at Ballymena and Antrim Athletics Club as part of my award and it is very enjoyable.

“I would recommend the award to other pupils as it is a good experience and helps you to develop a number of valuable skills.”

Check out more pictures from the visit here