Duchess of Cambridge and Jill Biden visit primary school in Cornwall in first meeting

The Duchess of Cambridge and Jill Biden have joined forces to visit a primary school where they met reception children and their resident rescue rabbits and chickens.

The Duchess’s long term work on early childhood was given a powerful seal of approval from America’s First Lady as the two women briefly took the focus away from politics at the G7 summit to visit Connor Downs Academy in Hayle, Cornwall.

It was the first time they had met.

The visit marked the first of a slew of royal appearances in Cornwall, where the Government hopes that the incomparable display of soft-power will help to woo foreign leaders.

The Duchess, wearing a red Alexander McQueen dress, and Dr Biden, in a pink jacket, arrived at the school shortly after midday, chatting amiably.

They were asked to put on facemasks before heading inside to tour a reception classroom and chatting to four and five-year-old pupils.

The Duchess of Cambridge and Jill Biden during their first meeting

Credit: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

“Thank you for reminding us,” the Duchess said. 

Ahead of the visit, Janice Eddy, the school’s head, revealed that the children had been learning about the White House so they knew about their American visitor.

“They are quite aware of who’s coming,” she said. “And obviously incredibly excited in the way that a four or five year old can be. Perhaps not completely understanding.”

As they two women walked into the classroom, they were met by a terrified silence

“They’re scared to death,” Dr Biden joked.  

“It’s the quietest class I’ve ever been to. How old are you?” the Duchess asked. 

They were told the children were learning about how to make the world a better place. Some of the pupils sounded out their new words with the First Lady.

The class was reading Greta and the Giants by Zoe Tucker, a story inspired by Greta Thunberg.

“Do you know this series?” the Duchess asked Dr Biden. 

“I know Greta of course,” the First Lady said. 

The two women helped some children with Lego and watched others draw.

Asked about the importance of early childhood education, Dr Biden said: “It’s very important to the foundation. As a teacher at the upper levels if they don’t have a good foundation they fall so far behind. This is amazing to see how far advanced they are.”

The Duchess and Dr Biden were due to be shown how the children care for the rescue animals before holding a round table discussion with four experts on early childhood, invited by the Duchess.

The Duchess of Cambridge and US First Lady Jill Biden, carrying carrots for the school rabbit, Storm

Credit: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

They are Eamon McCrory, professor of developmental neuroscience and psychopathology at  University College London, Dr Trudi Seneviratne, registrar at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Ed Vainker, CEO of Reach Foundation and Owen Thomas, head of programmes at Future Men.

The Cambridges took part in a video call with a group supported by Future Men, a London-based charity providing guidance to men and boys, in November.

Three American experts also joined the discussion via Zoom.

Ms Eddy said the school worked with pupils who have experienced trauma in their lives. 

“We are very much about supporting the children not only in terms of that academic attainment and their progress but we’re also very, very focused on supporting children as individuals, and in supporting their positive relationships with one another with adults with society and also supporting their mental health,” she said.

“Here we’re very much about nurturing the child as a person.”

Ms Eddy said the school had an outdoor classroom featuring a pond and firepits.

“Particularly what makes it special is that we have animals,” she added.

“And again those animals are very much about supporting the children just to be in touch with the animals to understand empathy, to learn to care for them, to nurture the animals in developing their skills for nurturing as adults.

“All of the animals on rescue animals. So we’ve got two families of rescued rabbits..  and we also have battery hens.”

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