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University Church Free School opened by Gyles Brandreth, BEARing a VIP - 08/08/2017

The University Church Free School (UCFS) in Chester has been officially opened by the Chancellor of the University of Chester, Gyles Brandreth, accompanied by another Very ImPAWtant Person.

The Chancellor visited the School, alongside the Lord Mayor of Chester, Councillor Razia Daniels, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Chester, Professor Tim Wheeler and a celebrity teddy bear, belonging to Oscar-winning actress Dame Judi Dench CH.

All members of the School community were invited to share the celebrations, which were attended by 150 guests including parents of the 130 pupils and governors. The theme of the celebratory event was a Teddy Bears’ Picnic, a perfect opportunity for the nation’s best known bear collector to share the origin of the cuddly toy, which dates back to former US President Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt.

UCFS was established by the University of Chester and the Church of England in September 2013 and is located on the same site as the former Love Street School, right in the heart of Chester.

The School, which was rated as ‘Good’ by Ofsted in its first ever inspection, focuses on quality of learning and teaching across the curriculum, with a particular importance placed on literacy and numeracy and a love of music. UCFS prides itself on its pupils and their exemplary behaviour and enthusiastic attitude towards learning. As described by Ofsted, they are the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the School.

Gyles received a tour of the School, visiting each classroom. A celebration then took place at St John The Baptist’s Church, on Vicar’s Lane, where the Rev David Chesters conducted the service, during which pupils gave presentations and performed musical items.

Back at the School, a community choir, made up of pupils and parents, sang a song about peace, before Gyles unveiled a plaque marking UCFS officially open, and shared a few words of customary humour and wisdom with the School.

He brought along some favourite teddy bears from his collection, which is now housed at Newby Hall in North Yorkshire – including that of Dame Judi Dench CH, which is over 80 years old. The Vice-Chancellor brought along his much-loved childhood bear and the University’s own Graduation Bear also put in an appearance. The children then enjoyed an afternoon tea together and were treated to cupcakes featuring teddy bear toppings.

Principal of UCFS, Jonathan Farrington, said: “I am delighted that our pupils and School community have had an opportunity to come together to celebrate the official opening of our School. Music is at the heart of everything we do at UCFS and this was a wonderful opportunity to showcase children’s talents in the beautiful setting of St John the Baptist Church, with whom we work closely. I look forward to continuing to lead UCFS on the next stage of its journey.”

Gyles Brandreth, Chancellor of the University of Chester, said: “As Nelson Mandela used to say, “Education is everything” and there is no more important foundation for children than good primary education – which is why the University of Chester is rightly proud of its involvement with and commitment to UCFS.

“It was a particular treat for me to find that bears were part of the UCFS celebrations. I was pleased to meet the staff and parents and children – and, because I was once a friend of Christopher Robin Milne, the son of AA Milne, to be able to tell the children who shook my hand that they were shaking the hand that had shaken the hand that once held the paw of Winnie-the-Pooh.”

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Chester, Professor Tim Wheeler, added: “The University is proud and privileged to have its association with such a high performing school, with such an engaging approach towards teaching and learning and such talented pupils.”