Kim, Owen and Lucy discuss the organisation of the event. Picture: Keith Blundy

Nearly two and a half thousand students from schools throughout the Diocese of Durham have  been attending school leavers services at Durham Cathedral ahead of making the move from primary to secondary school.

Children attended six services throughout the week taking part in a series of prayer station workshop activities and a short worship service. A significant change this year is that all the prayer spaces and the service were put together and led by year 10 students from Ian Ramsey Church of England Academy in Stockton. They have been supported by students from their sister Academy the Venerable Church of England Academy in Sunderland.  

Bishop Paul with Lucy, Kim and Owen.
Picture: Keith Blundy

Owen Davidson (15) from Ian Ramsey Church of England Academy said: “We have been organising and leading the leavers around the five different prayer stations helping them to think about moving on to their new secondary schools, what they are going to have to do and the worries they might have about it and capturing what they have enjoyed about their time at primary school.”

Kim Munemo (15) said: “We were given the task of organising and leading this whole event. We are involved in leading worship in school as part of the Prayer Spaces project that our school (Ian Ramsey) and our sister academy the Venerable Bede Church of England Academy in Sunderland have been doing for the last year or so.”

The prayer spaces included: writing down some of their thoughts; making pipe-cleaner models of the people most important to them as a way of offering thanks; creating pieces for a giant jigsaw with their name on and asking for a prayer to be said as they move to their new school; A light house of prayers for their journey and messages of thanks for their time at primary school on flags.

Children’s Ministry adviser Sharon Pritchard who worked with the Ian Ramsey students in the putting together of the services said: “Everyday, across the Diocese we educate more than 14,000 children, recognising how important the end of primary school and the move to secondary school is a big thing in children’s lives – but they are not alone – God is always present.”

Lucy Watson (14) said: “Not only have we been leading the service and the Prayer Stations, we have really enjoyed talking with the leavers about the move to their new schools. It has meant that we have been able to pass on some encouragement to younger people that are yet to come to secondary school and helps me to reflect on maybe what I was like when I was in year 6 and give them hope for their secondary school years as I think about leaving mine.

Sharon Pritchard (centre) with two students from Ian Ramsey CE Academy – singing with the worship band.
Picture: Keith Blundy

It’s really helped me to open up and pass on knowledge and experiences to the leavers – I just really hope that they enjoy secondary school.”

Owen added: “I think this is very useful as a bridge into their new schools. When we came to our year 6 leavers service we didn’t have anything like this and I think is a great idea to help in moving schools.”

The Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham who was present to give a leavers talk at two of the six services said: “It’s been fantastic seeing the young people from Ian Ramsey Church of England Academy. They have planned everything and put together these amazing prayer spaces and a really thoughtful closing act of worship and then they are there leading these year 6 leavers though the activities.

“This is young people leading the next generation at a tough point in anyone’s life moving from primary to secondary school. So to having those who are already at secondary school planning, leading and guiding must be a really good thing. I think 10 and 11 year olds are going to listen to those voices much more than they are going to listen to mine.”

Bishop Paul visits one of the prayer stations.
Picture: Keith Blundy

Talking about youth leadership, Bishop Paul added: “Youth leadership is absolutely vital. I heard recently that those who later in life go into senior leadership positions in all walks of life are those that were most likely to have been given the opportunity of getting into leadership as a young person. In fact if you do leadership as a young person you are highly likely to do some kind of leadership as an adult, whilst for those that don’t get the opportunity the odds are they will never be in leadership roles as an adult – and that is hugely significant.

“I think our Church Schools and Youth Groups are all offering a fantastic opportunity to develop young people into being responsible adults of the future.”

Pictures from the 2017 Leavers Service