On Monday, 14th March 2016 hundreds of British children joined the Royal Family, High Commissioners and specially invited guests in Westminster Abbey, London to celebrate Commonwealth Day at The Commonwealth Service. From Cardiff to Cambridge, London to Liverpool, children from across the UK united to learn about what it means to be part of An Inclusive Commonwealth. Young people were drawn from primary, secondary, independent and state schools, as well as youth programmes such as the Scouts and Girlguiding. These groups have since identified numerous ways they will incorporate the Commonwealth into their teaching and learning, including participating in The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition, organising school assemblies, arranging a Commonwealth Club, and embedding the Commonwealth into lessons. Below we highlight just a few of the more than 75 groups that attended the Service.
Frances Bardsley Academy for Girls
Six girls and one teacher from Frances Bardsley International Club in Romford, Essex attended the Service and were delighted to meet Deputy Mayor of London, Roger Evans outside of the Great West Door. The girls began the day by flying the Commonwealth Flag outside of their school, and also met their Member of Parliament, the Dean of Westminster Abbey and aides of the Commonwealth Secretary General.
1st Amersham Common Brownies
The five girls, aged eight to 11, from the 1st Amersham Common Brownies travelled from Watford, Hertfordshire for The Commonwealth Service. The group described their experience as one to remember for a lifetime. After the Service, they have been composing a collaborative report of their experience, encouraging their teamwork and developing their writing skills in the context of the Commonwealth.
Eight students from Coleg Gwent, Crosskeys Campus in Caerphilly, Wales were invited to attend the Service with their teachers. The students have historically taken part in The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition as a group, in light of their additional learning needs. This year their submission, a poem titled ‘The Wealth We Have in Common’, was presented to Baroness Patricia Scotland, the new Secretary General of the Commonwealth, at an event at the Temple of Peace in Cardiff. Baroness Scotland read their poem at this event, which was organised by the Welsh Centre for International Affairs and supported by the Royal Commonwealth Society Wales.
The Commonwealth Service is often described as the highlight of the Commonwealth calendar, with thousands of people celebrating all the Commonwealth has to offer in the largest multi-faith service in the UK. This year’s theme of An Inclusive Commonwealth highlighted the Commonwealth values of tolerance, respect and understanding, as well as equity and fairness. With sign language interpreters from the Royal Association for the Deaf (RAD) and young para-athletes joining the Service for the first time, as well as a diverse audience and speakers and performers from across the Commonwealth, the event truly reflected the importance of inclusivity in the modern Commonwealth. Schools, youth groups and Commonwealth citizens are invited to continue this theme throughout 2016, taking part in The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition, Commonwealth Youth Summits, and other projects that bring the Commonwealth to life.