Prince William helped pitch a tent blindfolded and made a tower from marshmallow and drinking straws at a small Welsh school, launching a new award to help boost children’s confidence and resilience.
“Ta-da, look at that! Good job, guys. Amazing!” William said, congratulating his teenage teammates – and perhaps himself – as he successfully put up the tent in the countryside.
On St David’s Day – the birthday of Wales’ patron saint – William joined three groups of pupils at Llanfoist Fawr Primary School in Abergavenny as they showed him different levels of the new award carrying his name.
The Prince William Award is run by SkillForce, a charity of which he is patron, to help build the character of children aged six to 14.
William, 34, said: “I believe that an individual’s academic success, wellbeing and mental health depends not only on traditional qualifications, but on nurturing non-academic attributes like self-confidence, discipline and determination.
“It is not enough that someone is good at English and maths if they cannot withstand the pressures that life throws up.
“The ability for a child to develop character, courage and resilience to overcome setbacks is something about which I care deeply.
“Over the years I have seen, time and again, how the development of personal skills puts a young person in better stead for education, future employment and for life.”
SkillForce, which has been piloting the new award, employs instructors who are mainly former members of the Armed Forces to deliver motivational mentoring and education programmes to schoolchildren.
Shortly after arriving to a welcome of children waving Wales’ red, white and green national flag, William helped some visiting six-year-olds from Bishopstone Primary School, Swindon, construct towers with marshmallows and drinking straws.
As some of the little ones licked their fingers, William asked if anyone had been eating any of the marshmallows. “Very good,” he replied when they denied taking a bite.
When the tower took shape, William proclaimed: “Look at that! Brilliant!”
Outside, he took part in an exercise in team-building as he joined 8- to 11-year-olds from Llanfoist Fawr school to move a football – playing the part of a radioactive cell that could not be touched – across the playground using ropes to hold it above the ground.
“Nice and slowly,” William coached as they gently made it along the course.
Lastly, he was with 12- to 14-year-olds from Caldicot School, Monmouthshire, imagining they were hurriedly pitching their tents in the dark after a hike.
He and his team had been asked to imagine they had returned to camp at night time and had to put up the tent in the dark. They did it in 10 minutes, much to William’s pleasure.
Keaton Oliver, 12, said William made no mistakes despite the blindfold.
“He was really good to be honest. It was really exciting,” Keaton added.
Ben Slade, chief executive of SkillForce, said: “There aren’t many members of the royal family who’ve tried to pitch a tent blindfold. He was asking if he was the only one left with one on and if this was a stitch-up.”
The activities reflected how the new Prince William Awardis designed in three stages.
The Pioneer Award is for children aged 6 and 7, and helps develop character and teach children to understand the value of significant character traits.
The Explorer Award for children aged 8 to 11 focuses on developing character within a team and the impact individuals can make on group performance, while the Trailblazer Award helps inspire those aged 12 to 14 with confident leadership skills and equipping them to take on responsibility.
Jon Murphy, head teacher of Llanfoist Fawr school, said: “We have seen huge benefits from taking part in the pilot this year. Our pupils have greater self-confidence, independence, problem-solving and listening skills, and attendance has improved.”
Caldicott head Susan Gwyer-Roberts, a SkillForce ambassador, said: “The charity’s work is transformational, and the instructors are great role models.
“We’ve seen students previously shy and wary of speaking up being willing to give a group talk, and others who were lacking in self-belief succeeding in ways they didn’t think were possible.”