William and Kate carried out their first royal tour via video call, speaking to pupils and teachers from a primary school in Burnley to learn how they are coping during the coronavirus pandemic.
With Easter days away, some of the children wore bunny ears for the visit, the duchess was given a virtual posey and William was left stumped by an inquisitive youngster’s question.
The couple “visited” Casterton Primary Academy, close to Burnley General Hospital, which has remained open to teach children of key workers and other vulnerable youngsters.
Kate told the children and teachers: “To you and everyone who is in during this time, it must be such a relief for all the parents who are key workers to know that their children have the normality and structure and they’ve got a safe place for them to be.
“So really, really well done and for all of you, I know it’s not easy circumstances, but it’s fantastic.”
A teacher replied: “Thank you so much. I think everyone is just pleased to be able to help.”
William added: “Good northern volunteering spirit going on up there, very good of you!”
There was a lighter moment when one of the children asked the future king: “The first William was William the Conqueror. What do you want to be called?”
The duke laughed before bashfully swerving the question, saying: “I don’t think I can answer that.”
When the youngsters showed off their self-made bunny ears, William laughed, saying: “I like your bunny ears, they look like the real deal – that’s a strong look!”
The couple spent an hour speaking to children – who held up pictures of their parents – including 10-year-old Harris, whose mother is still working as an NHS administrator for health visitors, and Lloyd, nine, whose mother is employed at a special needs school.
Kate began the introductions, saying: “What are your names? Very nice to meet you. I’m Catherine and this is William next to me,” before asking them if they were holding up pictures of their “mummies and daddies”.
Harris replied: “This is a picture of my mum and she works for the NHS as an admin for the health visitors and I’m really proud of her.”
Impressed with the artwork, the duke, 37, replied: “Well done you! Can you hold it up a bit to your left so we can see it – that’s it, brilliant! Look at that, that’s a great picture, well done.”
Kate said: “Ah, great photo – well done, it’s brilliant. I agree you should be very proud of her, they’re doing an amazing job all the NHS workers, so well done you.”
Another pupil said their father was a packer in a bakery, and the duke replied: “That’s a very important job too, keeping everyone well fed.”
During the virtual visit, 18 children were rotated in front of the camera in groups due to social distancing.
The school has also remained open as a hub for five local academies that are all part of the Pendle Education Trust.
Several children also showed The duke and duchess portraits of their key worker parents and explained why they were proud of them.
On the call William and Kate heard about the difficulties that schools, staff and children are facing, as well as the measures being taken to help pupils and their families, including food deliveries and mental health provision.
The couple also spoke with staff from mental health charity Place2Be, which has worked with schools in the Pendle Education Trust for 10 years, supporting the emotional wellbeing of children, parents and staff.
The charity continues to support school communities across the UK at this challenging time, adapting its usual model of school-based support by providing phone ‘check ins’ for young people and parents of younger children where pupils are not in school.
Anita Ghidotti, chief executive of the Pendle Education Trust, speaking about the children’s reaction to the royal encounter said: “They couldn’t believe it. It was just absolutely fantastic.”