SCHOOL children will become part of history as they forge stronger links with a cathedral which is undergoing its first major renovation in 250 years.

The Dean of Newcastle Geoff Miller gave students at Grace College, Gateshead, an update on progress at the cathedral, which is undergoing a £6m restoration, as he presented end of term prizes.

The Miller made contact with Grace College, which is part of the Emmanuel Schools Foundation, last September when he Tweeted his support for students who were taking part in a 300-mile charity bike ride.

Principal Mark Hall then invited him to the college for its annual prizegiving ceremony, which, due to social distancing, was limited to those students receiving accolades in person but then live-streamed to the remaining 1,000 children and staff.

Very Reverend Miller told them: “The cathedral was built in 1091, has burnt down a few times and was last refurbished in 1773. We are renovating its interior to reveal its beauty including restoring and researching the 150 two tonne gravestones in the floor which date back to the 16th and 17th Centuries.

“The idea is to tell the stories of the people of Newcastle, and Grace College will be helping us do this and perform in the cathedral every day.”

The Dean presented prizes to students from Year 7-13 for excellence and endeavour. He told them: “I commend you all today for all you have done so far. Year 13 students are on the brink of new journeys and you can aspire to change the world. You can and you will make a difference with your solitary life.”

Mr Hall added: “This year has been difficult and disruptive but I want to commend each person who is part of the Grace College community for their resilience. We have stuck together with a common sense of unity and supported and encouraged each other. We are very proud of every single student who is part of Grace College; you have done phenomenally well.”

Head boy Charlie McKenna and head girl Faith Ramsay made farewell speeches and were presented with commemorative blazers by ESF chief executive officer Mark Pike.

The assembly also watched virtual performances of Amazing Grace by the school band and singers, a poem, The Key to Success by Edda Stenbom-Moss and Holly McLelland, a piano solo by Rosie Ma and a duet of When You Believe, by Josie McGinley and Summer McDowell, before the incoming head boy and girl Euan Gray and Rosie Greatorex gave the vote of thanks.

Prize-winners then conducted a question and answer session with the Dean during which he revealed what he had been doing during the lockdown, what advice he had for those leaving sixth form, what he liked about being a teacher before he was ordained and what makes him happy.

He said much of lockdown had been spent on Zoom calls relating to the cathedral restoration but he had also learnt how much he needed people, particularly his family.

Looking back to his career as a drama and RE teacher, he said he loved the students and his colleagues and missed chalk and the blackboard. “What makes me really happy is seeing other people being who they really are and seeing them thrive,” he said.

He told students: “My advice is to take every single opportunity that comes your way, even if this puts you out of your comfort zone, then be you in it. Go for it in every way you can and make the best of life.”