Kings of Wessex Continues Ascension Day Tradition Despite Lockdown

By Sam Kail-Dyke, Wessex Learning Trust

Since 1883, it has been a tradition at the Kings of Wessex Academy, Cheddar, that on Ascension Day, the children of the school mark their moving on to the next stage of their lives by climbing the tower of the local St. Andrew’s church and singing the Ascension Day Hymn – Hail the day that sees Him rise – by Charles Wesley. The celebration, which was begun by a former Headmaster of the National School in Cheddar after seeing similar events take place at the colleges of Oxford University, marks a real rite of passage for students as they look back at their time at the school and look forwards to the exciting opportunities which they are going on to start. It is something which undoubtably every student looks forward to.

Unfortunately, this year the Coronavirus Lockdown means that schools are closed and therefor there were no students around to climb the tower or sing the hymn. Despite this however, staff at the Kings of Wessex Academy and Wessex Learning Trust were keen to keep the tradition alive by staging their own small, socially distanced service in the grounds of the church on the morning of the 21st May.

The service was introduced by Headteacher and Chief Executive of the Wessex Learning Trust, Gavin Ball who talked of the sadness of not being able to share this event with students and give them the sendoff which they deserve after all their hard work throughout their time at the school. School Chaplin, Ruth Motion, followed Mr. Ball with an extract from the Bible explaining the meaning of Ascension Day and telling the story of Christ’s Ascension to Heaven. Mrs. Motion also prayed for the school, the students, staff, governors, and everyone affected by the Coronavirus Pandemic and the impact of Lockdown.

The service then saw Trust Projects Officer (and Trumpeter) Sam Kail-Dyke introduce the Ascension Hymn and play it for the amassed congregation on the Trumpet. In normal times the students would be accompanied by the full Kings Brass Band at the top of the tower – however on this occasion the single trumpet had to suffice; and definitely highlighted the poignancy of having to observe this tradition without our wonderful students. 

The short service was concluded by the Reverend of St. Andrew’s, Stuart Burns, who said a blessing and prayer, and thanked the staff for taking part in keeping this noble tradition alive.

For all our students who have unfortunately missed out on this event, the service was recorded and can be watched here:

We know that it won’t be the same as going up the tower for real, but we hope that it will go some of the way to marking student’s own ascension to the next chapter of their lives. We also hope that in keeping the 137-year-old tradition alive, even during lockdown, we have safeguarded its future for generations to come.

We are also proud to say that our efforts in maintaining the Ascension Day tradition were picked up by BBC Radio Somerset who interviewed Mr. Kail-Dyke on their afternoon show with Matt Faulkner. You can listen to the interview online here: