STUDENTS at an Old Woking secondary school have raised more than £17,000 for a series of charities, including locally based The Lighthouse.

St John the Baptist pupils marked the 40 days of Lent by taking on a series of sponsored challenges, despite being hampered by lockdown restrictions.

In a show of creativity, the students engaged in activities ranging across cycling, running and walking, an endurance test for a radio-controlled car and an online concert.

The total, at £17,425 – a school record for a single fundraising event – was divided largely between four charities, with The Lighthouse receiving just over £4,000.

Similar sums were awarded to The Samaritans; Compassion, which continued the school’s historic links with Africa and will help fund degree-level students in Togo and the purchase of computers in Tanzania; and Million Minutes, to encourage young people to create community projects.

There was also a contribution to the school-based Families in Need Fund.

The circumstances of lockdown prevented the pupils having their usual input in the choice of charities, which are traditionally pitched to the charity committee from across the school years.

They decide, and the charities are presented in assembly at the start of Lent to kickstart fundraising.

This year, however, the beneficiaries were selected more centrally.

Erik and Rebecca Jespersen, founders of The Lighthouse in Woking, received a cheque on behalf of the project, and described their work with Woking Foodbank, debt counselling, employment programme, clothing provision and the increase in volunteers that make all they do possible.

“So it’s all about local stuff,” Erik said.  “Thank you for being involved because that’s what it lives and breathes, local connection.”

Leo Ruby, the school’s sixth-form charity representative, said:We are grateful to all those who supported and contributed to these ventures.”

Speaking about the team effort by the whole school which had produced such a notable return, headteacher James Granville-Hamshar said: “We are terribly proud of our students that, despite the most difficult of circumstances, they have raised a record amount for some really deserving charities that desperately need our help in these trying times.

“Fundraising at SJB is part of our DNA and we are glad to see that hasn’t been diminished by COVID.”