“I’VE JUST seen The Queen!” a youngster squealed in delight when a member of the royal family visited a Chobham school today.

Her Royal Highness was in fact Sophie, Countess of Wessex, who had arrived to officially open St Lawrence CofE Primary School’s new entrance hall, along with a teaching kitchen, new loos and an extended reception in celebration of the school’s bicentenary.

Excitement resonated throughout as the countess was given a tour of the new quarters, then went from class to class chatting and joking with the children before unveiling the plaque in the school hall.

Headteacher Debbie Cottrell welcomed the countess: “I am delighted to have you here to officially open our new entrance hall and unveil the plaque for our bicentenary.”


Among the guests were the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey, Dame Sarah Goad, County High Sheriff Karin Sehmer, Surrey mayor Bruce Mansell, Surrey County Council chairman Lavinia Sealy, James Davies, Matthew Clarke and Andy Beckett from the construction company, along with former headteacher Catherine Reynolds and chairman of the school governors Richard Smithson.

In the school hall, overseen by deputy headteacher Ann Wheeler, parents, Rev Chris Bessant and Rev Chris Bedford, PCSO Max Pearson and guests were entertained by the pupils with lots of singing, Year 4 on violins, Year 5’s rhythmic group with Alex Roose and Jessi Pywell from Surrey Get Vocal and the Chobham Morris dancers, who have raised lots of funds for the school, with youngest member Year 2 pupil Rhys Bennett-Jones.

The Countess of Wessex spoke to Catherine Reynolds, who spearedheaded the new extension works and invited her to the school last year.

And the countess was presented with a jar of Chobham honey by Year 4’s Sid Beadle, representing the school’s bee emblem, and a posy of flowers by Year 4’s Chloe Westphal and Year 3’s Oliver Kendall.

For the unveiling the countess spontaneously asked another couple of children to help her.

She signed the visitor’s book and, after a three, two, one countdown, the countess was asked to ring a handbell so that the school’s church bells at Chobham St Lawrence would peel a reply.

“If I don’t hear them, do I carry on ringing this?” she joked.

Luckily, the church bells rang out.

Full story and picture special in next week's News & Mail - out Thursday, March 7