The Duke of Cambridge has spent an action-packed day in Birmingham, raising awareness of anti-bullying projects in schools and youth homelessness issues.
The Prince spent the afternoon on the football pitch with schoolchildren from Saltley Academy and six other city schools, missing all three of his goals during a penalty shootout. William, 33, an avid supporter of Aston Villa, made his excuses as he stepped up to the mark against 13-year-old goalkeeper Dominic Rynkar.
“Remember I’m wearing a suit and shoes!” remarked the royal as he prepared to take his first shot, asking Rynkar who he supported before having his first attempt saved.
His second and third attempts were no better either as they sailed over the bar, with William giving a grimace before flashing a cheeky smile.
The Prince was visiting the school to see a project aimed at aiding community cohesion through football. Seven of Birmingham’s schools, including Saltley, are taking part in the initiative which is being promoted by the global charity, Football for Peace.
The charity, backed by the city council, has brought together young people from different schools, backgrounds and cultural circles and has been working with the school since September when it began delivering workshops for youngsters.
The Duke of Cambridge, keen to show his support for youth projects, spent over an hour at the school which is in one of Birmingham’s marginalised communities. Aside from his kick-about on the pitch, William handed out certificates to students who completed the leadership scheme which teaches them about equality diversity and community engagement.
Earlier in the day, William began his visit to Brum honouring local recipients of the Victoria Cross at a memorial service in the city’s Centenary Square. Birmingham saw one of the largest casualty counts of the First World War, with over 12,000 citizens losing their lives in the conflict.
10 citizens were awarded the Victoria Cross for their immense bravery and the Prince unveiled commemorative paving stones for each of them at the Hall of Memory. Built in the 1920s with recovery efforts ongoing in the city, the Hall aims to provide a lasting legacy to future generations of the sacrifices made by those during the Great War.
William also spent time at Burnsville College, engaging with students as part of a series of anti-bullying workshops. Supported by The Diana Award, a charity founded by William and brother Harry in memory of their mother, the workshops help school children to feel safe at school. The Prince spent another hour at the College where he listened to an anti-bullying rap and joined students as they created a poster for the ‘Together We Are One’ campaign, aimed at making people comfortable in their school environment regardless of personality or identity.
Writing “I am a Prince” and “I wear glasses” as his differentiators, the royal also congratulated anti-bullying ambassadors, of which there are over 16,000 across the UK. William also met with experts from the sector as he discussed bullying issues facing schools today and continued to honour his mothers’s belief that young people have the power to change the world for the better.
His trip comes as research by the charity suggests children are facing increasing challenges at school, with a quarter of young people feeling unsafe there. The Diana Award said that the workshops give ambassadors “the tools and guidance to set up a year-long social action project in their communities, aimed at fostering a better, safe and bully free environment, which appreciates and celebrates diversity, instead of being threatened by it.”
His final engagement for the day saw the Prince pay a visit to homeless charity St Basils, which is helping combat young homelessness through an NHS Apprenticeship scheme.
The ‘Live and Work’ partnership, which is joint project between St Basils and Sandwell and Birmingham West NHS Trust, is giving 27 youngsters the opportunity to get involved with the trust’s work and utilising otherwise empty accommodation in the area.
Apprentices are able to live benefit free whilst engaging with the scheme and learn valuable life and work skills. The scheme provides them with an opportunity for further development and aims to stop youngsters from having to revert back to welfare dependency and homelessness. William has already visited the charity on his previous visits to Birmingham in 2013 and 2014 and St Basils is working in partnership with Centrepoint, another homelessness charity of which he is Patron.
His visit comes as the Prince spoke with student journalist, Sophie Kichou in an exclusive interview for the Big Issue. Kichou, herself made homeless at 18 after it became unsafe for her to stay with her father, previously met Prince William through Centrepoint and the royal promised she would, one day, be able to interview him as she spoke to him about her journalism aspirations.
Now 24, Sophie was invited to speak to the Duke at Kensington Palace about why Centrepoint is a charity close to his heart and his memories of visiting hostels with his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales. He also discussed how the issue of youth homelessness has changed in the decade he has been Centrepoint’s Patron – a role also held by his mother before her death.
The Prince also spoke about the upcoming Christmas season, his first as a family of four. “George will be bouncing around like a rabbit. If I get any sleep on Christmas Eve it’ll be good!” he said, adding “We’ll go to church as a family on Christmas Day, as we always do.”
“We’ll watch George try to tackle his presents as he tries to unwrap them. It’s a very different experience at Christmas, having a family of your own.” remarked William in the rare personal interview with Kichou, who is studying her for her Masters degree at City University London.
Kichou’s interview with The Duke of Cambridge is available in the latest issue of Big Issue, a magazine sold by the homeless, from today.