Children leaving their Catterick Garrison school for the last time were given an unexpected send off when 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment arrived to lead them in a final march.
Year 6 pupils walked out of Le Cateau County Primary School for the last time accompanied by drummers from the 1st Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment.
Many pupils’ families are attached to the unit.
The county council, garrison command and the town’s primary schools have worked together throughout the pandemic to ensure support was in place for families and children.
The garrison had a high number of key worker parents and many other parents involved in military deployments.
Capt Lofty Simpson-Worboys, unit welfare officer with 1st Battalion offered to organise a special event for the Year 6 pupils at Le Cateau Primary to mark their last day in school and suggested some drummers marched the pupils out for the last time as a special surprise.
Parents were informed a special event was taking place and congregated at the front of the school to watch the children march.
Also leaving alongside the drummers was Gill Jackson, who was retiring after 32 years as a nursery nurse at the school, where she worked with the youngest children at the school in the Early Years setting.
Gill was due to retire when lockdown hit, but was persuaded by the school to stay on a little longer to help children and families through the pandemic.
She was given VIP treatment throughout the final day of term, starting the day as guest of honour at the Breakfast Club, where former pupils served her breakfast.
Her family members, former colleagues and current staff and pupils were also invited to attend the special assembly during the afternoon to mark the school leavers.
Outside of school, Gill is better known as the mother of former Olympic swimmers Joanne and Nicola Jackson.
Headteacher Ian Mottram said: “It was a very fitting tribute given the large number of service pupils at Le Cateau and the work we do to support them.
“We currently have 344 service pupils in the school and have had more than 100 new admissions this year alone.
“The strong links with the Garrison community is what we pride ourselves on and this has been ever more the case during lockdown.
“In my role as chair of the Garrison Headteachers I was heavily engaged in weekly conversations between myself, on behalf of the schools, North Yorkshire County Council and the Garrison command in ensuring we were meeting the wide ranges of needs during the pandemic.
“This was vital in ensuring we could provide the support we needed, support the key workers to attend the school and to make sure the families were well supposed whilst deployment and movements took place.
“This relationship across the garrison is something we are very proud of and works well in supporting the children and their families.”
Capt Lofty Simpson-Worboys said they had wanted to ensure children had a memorable last day of term before starting out in secondary education.
“We wanted to do something special and memorable for the children on their last day in Primary school,” he said.
“It’s a big change for the children who will no doubt miss their friends and all the wonderful staff at Le Cateau Primary School.
“We wish them all “good luck” in their new schools and a safe and happy summer holiday”.
Cllr Patrick Mulligan, executive member for education and skills said: “This was a fitting tribute for pupils from Le Cateau garrison school, after what has been a challenging year for so many schools, families and children.
“We would like to thank the 1st Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment for giving children at Le Cateau primary school a send-off to remember.”