Prince Andrew told a school assembly in Whitehawk this afternoon: “I’ll be back!”
The Duke of York flew in to East Brighton Park before making the short drive to the City Academy Whitehawk where he spent more than two hours with children and staff.
He visited classrooms, spoke to parents and pupils as well as staff and supporters of a school that has been transformed in a few short years.
When he asked one child what she wanted to be when she grew up, she replied: “A princess.”
He told the school assembly that he had a message to take back to his nephew Prince George.
He asked hundreds of children in the hall for assembly this afternoon (Tuesday 1 March): “How good are your teachers?”
And they shouted back: “Amazing!”
He got the same response when he pointed to head teacher David Williams and asked: “What’s this man like? Is he any good as a head master?”
But there was just a hubbub when he asked the children what the worst thing was about being at the school, with no one offering an answer.
So he singled out teacher Alex Wheatley, who said: “Having to leave it.”
The royal visitor looked surprised when he asked a pupil to name the best thing and was told: “Maths.”
One quick-witted youngster came back with an old favourite of a quip: “Going home!”
The prince told the school’s 350 children and dozens of staff: “The reason that I’m here is because I’m very very interested in your education and your skills because you are the future of this country.
“We are going to rely on you to keep this country as prosperous as it is today if not more so.
“Word has reached Buckingham Palace and the Queen about the sort of learning that you are doing and the work you are doing and I wanted to congratulate you all.”
He said: “A school is only as good as a three legged school.”
The legs, he said, were “you the students, you the teachers and just as importantly your parents”.
He urged the children to thank their parents for giving them the opportunity to come to a school as good as City Academy Whitehawk.
And he encouraged the children to ask their teachers how they could learn rather than just be taught.
The prince added: “It’s a pleasure to see what a fantastic job is being done here. I will be continuing to watch this school and your progress.
“There’s a whole world out there that I want you to aspire to be a part of.”
He said that he was quoting a famous film character – the Terminator played by Arnold Schwarzenegger – when he said as he left: “I will be back!”
Head teacher David Williams – soon to be executive head – said afterwards: “It was terrific. I’m so glad it stopped raining so the kids could be outside.
“He was really engaged. He was really interested in the journey we’ve been on as a school. He was engaging with the children and the parents.”
Mr Williams took over when Whitehawk Primary School closed and became City Academy Whitehawk, sponsored by City College Brighton and Hove.
He said: “It was a struggle keeping him to time because he was so engaged with the children.
“And he seemed to enjoy himself. He had a sense of fun.”
Mr Williams and colleagues have taken dozens of year 6 children to Buckingham Palace over the past two years as guests of Prince Andrew’s private office.
Earlier as he spoke to parents Mr Williams told the prince: “You being here today is a massive thing for our community and will help give people pride in our community.
“We’ve come a long way but we’ve got a long way to go.”
This year the school’s reading, writing and maths results are better than the national average for the first time, the head told Prince Andrew.
The prince spoke to Cassandra Scaife, who has a six-year-old son in year 2. She said afterwards: “It was really nice that he spent that long with people.”
She and Kerry Pattinson – a mother of three pupils – told the prince about the way the school had improved. It was rated good by Ofsted last year.
The prince also met Sharon Maguire, head of specific needs at Roedean, with some of her pupils. Each week she brings a group of girls the short distance from their seafront independent school to the City Academy Whitehawk.
She said that they helped children at the academy with their reading – providing a useful lesson for youngsters at both schools.
Staff and supporters, including Andrew Goodall, from the Fonthill Foundation, spoke with pride afterwards about how well all the children had behaved and how delighted they had been to see the prince.