Year 6 children from Portsmouth Church of England primary schools enjoy leavers' day at cathedral

Pupils make concertina bees in craft workshops ahead of the Leavers Service at Portsmouth Cathedral
Pupils make concertina bees in craft workshops ahead of the Leavers Service at Portsmouth Cathedral
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By Canon Anthony Rustell, residentiary canon, Portsmouth Cathedral

We’ve just welcomed more than 1,300 pupils from 36 local schools to our cathedral for our annual round of Leavers’ Services.

Each school brought a canvas, which they had decorated to signify the importance of bees, to the Leavers Service at Portsmouth Cathedral

Each school brought a canvas, which they had decorated to signify the importance of bees, to the Leavers Service at Portsmouth Cathedral

This is the occasion when Year 6 pupils from Church of England schools gather to thank God for their time at primary school, and look forward to moving on to secondary school.

Each year, we fill the cathedral on three consecutive days with these 10 and 11-year-olds and their teachers. 

We spend the day taking part in a number of workshops before the service itself, and we always have a relevant theme.

Caring for God’s planet was the theme this year. The workshops and service focussed on the importance of the honey bee and pollination as one example of conservation.

Canon Peter Leonard, Archdeacon of the Isle of Wight, talks about the role of bees during the Leavers Service at Portsmouth Cathedral

Canon Peter Leonard, Archdeacon of the Isle of Wight, talks about the role of bees during the Leavers Service at Portsmouth Cathedral

In the weeks leading up to their special day, the pupils had planted bee-friendly plants in their school grounds, and painted canvases to remind them of the importance of the honey bee – and they brought those canvases and some of those plants with them to the cathedral.

In their workshops, they planted their bee-friendly flowers in portable wooden crates, which are now on display around the outside of our cathedral.

They also made ‘seed bombs’ that will grow into plants, created concertina bees out of paper, and sang about God’s creation. Some pupils also made ‘well dressings’, using beans and seeds to create artwork that celebrated God’s Earth.

Then senior clergy led an act of worship at which we celebrated God’s creation, prayed for the world and heard more about the theme. I was delighted to speak on one day, and bishops and archdeacons led the services and preached on other days.

Pupils make a presentation during the Leavers Service about the work theyve done at school on conservation of the planet

Pupils make a presentation during the Leavers Service about the work theyve done at school on conservation of the planet

During the services, some pupils gave presentations about the work they had done in their schools to promote conservation of the planet. Others led our prayers, or helped us learn more about the significance of bees within our eco-system.

Pupils and staff were also given special candles featuring our diocesan logo, which they could light during school assemblies to remind them of their identity as C of E schools.

As always, this was a fantastic occasion that reminded everyone of something that is at the heart of the faith we share. I hope the children who attended got as much out of it as I did.

Portsmouth Cathedral is in High Street, Old Portsmouth. Go to portsmouthcathedral.org.uk.