Archbishop of Canterbury delivers virtual assembly on hope to pupils at home

The Archbishop of Canterbury gave an assembly on hope to pupils across the country who are taking part in a newly-created virtual school set up during lockdown.

Justin Welby, who delivered the first assembly for the Government-backed Oak National Academy, said “patience, positivity, and keeping going under pressure” will sustain hope.

Addressing children on Thursday, he said: “Many of you will be going through really tough times at home, many of you will be having a good time, but for some it will be really hard.

“There will be all kinds of problems. I know what that’s like. I have been in that situation.

“How do you keep up hope? Patience, positivity, and keeping going under pressure.”

The Archbishop talked about child refugees he had met who had “spiritual hope” for the future and he also drew on the words of Nelson Mandela, whom he described as one of his heroes.

He said: “We all have times we remember, and I suspect this year will be one of those times, lots of you will have sad reasons for remembering this year.

“People who were ill, people who have died, fear, the lockdown, economic worries, pressure at home, rows and difficulties.”

But he told children to focus on hope to get through the Covid-19 pandemic.

He added: “It’s wonderful that this academy is growing and exists. In these dark times it’s a place of light and of commitment to the future.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson also made an appearance at the inaugural assembly.

He said: “I know that life has changed for everyone as we tackle this virus, and we’re all doing our bit to support the NHS.

“The best way that we can do this is, sadly for most of you, is not to go to school but have to stay at home instead.

“I know this is not easy, and you must be absolutely desperate to get back to normal, see your friends and see your teachers again.”

Mr Williamson added: “But just because you’re not at school, that doesn’t mean you are going to miss out.

“Your teachers are working just as hard as they always do. There are plenty of activities to help you learn at home and this wonderful online classroom is just one of them.”

The online academy was set up by a group of teachers in less than a fortnight and launched earlier this month for students from Reception to Year 10.

The virtual school provides 180 classes a week – equating to three hours a day for primary school students and four hours for secondary.

Matt Hood, principal of Oak National Academy, said: “The assemblies are an opportunity for us to think about some wider things that might be affecting us at the moment. And to create a moment for us all to come together, sit and watch, listen, and talk to our family and friends.”

The assembly was broadcast at 10am on Thursday via the education site Tes. It will remain available on the Oak National Academy website.