Duchess of Cornwall hits the books at St Mary's Primary School in Battersea

The Duchess of Cornwall is greeted by St Mary's pupils

Omari Koroma, 5, and Isabel Patchett chat with the Duchess

Royal reads Jack and the Beanstalk to enraptured pupils

Group shot of pupils, their Royal visitor, headteacher Jared Brading and the reading volunteers

First published in News
Last updated

Dozens of delighted children greeted the Duchess of Cornwall yesterday when she visited a Battersea school.

Proud teachers and pupils at St Mary's Roman Catholic Primary School welcomed HRH to demonstrate the success of a reading initiative implemented 18 months ago.

Camilla sat in with a number of youngsters as they read and was even asked by one cheeky six-year-old: "Are you going to be Queen?"

Evidently tickled by the question, she happily replied: "You never know."

The school joined forces with national children's literacy charity Beanstalk in 2011 and the results have been remarkable.

Not only did Ofsted rate it "good" for the first time, but in one year it went from 52 per cent to 100 per cent success in Sats English and Maths, putting it in the top 10 in London.

Beanstalk recruits, vets, trains and supports volunteers to work in primary schools with children who have fallen behind with their reading.

Reading helpers work with children on a one-to-one basis, spending two 30 minute sessions with each child, giving them their full attention and support to improve reading levels, increase overall confidence and inspire a lifelong love of reading.

After a guided tour of the school HRH sat with a number of children as they read with their respective reading helper.

One of the children, Omari Koroma, 5, read an exert from The Frog in the Bath which clearly delighted the Duchess.

She said: "I give you 10 out of 10."

Omari’s reading helper, Isabel Patchett, 50, a mother of four, explained why she became a reading volunteer: "I just felt it was something I wanted to do.

"I can’t imagine a life without books and was shocked by what I read about the state of illiteracy in London and wanted to help."

A grandmother of five and a voracious reader herself, Camilla then sat with a class of youngsters and read Jack and the Beanstalk with them.

She said: "Are you comfortable? Can any of you read this book? You can probably read it better than I do."

But the Duchess is not the only famous face to have graced the school because Prime Minister David Cameron also dropped in to see the reading programme in full effect last year.

St Mary's headteacher Jared Brading said: "Can there ever have been a school that has attracted so much attention? Who will visit us next I wonder? The Pope?"

To mark Beanstalk's 40th anniversary the charity announced this week that the Duchess will become its patron.

Sue Porto, chief executive of Beanstalk, said: "We are honoured to receive HRH's support and hope that together we can encourage more people to volunteer as reading helpers, to provide one-to-one support to children who are struggling with their reading."

To find out more about how to volunteer, contact the charity on 020 7729 4087 or visit www.beanstalkcharity.org.uk

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