Oxford URNU reaches out to local school

Building benches and clearing overgrowth were just a few of the task undertaken by a group of Officer Cadets (OCdts) from the Oxford University Royal Naval Unit (Oxford URNU).

Over the course of a school day, a team of OCdts lent their time to a local school to assist in the building of a somewhat secluded area in the playground, to allow students to escape the bustle of ordinary playtime.

Larkrise Primary School, located in the culturally diverse area of East Oxford, caters to around 450 pupils from the surrounding communities.

The School thought it fit to create a ‘quiet area’ to supply children who may become overwhelmed during break-times with a safe area to retire to, away from the main grounds.

The Outreach Project was a huge success which delivered genuine benefits to the school and sparked much interest in the RN from the school children.

Lieutenant Will Jones RN

The team arrived early at the School on a brisk morning, and quickly set to work building benches and setting fence-posts in a secluded section of the playground.

Under the guiding hand of the School caretaker, one group of OCdts showcased their impressive carpentry skills, and eagerly set about constructing a number of benches from wooden planks and posts.

Another group of OCdts and the Unit Coxswain, CPO Gary Maskell, put an admirable effort into digging through the cold ground, in order to set a number of posts that would act as the guiding plots for the eventual linked fence to be constructed around it.

By midday, work was complete on the quiet area, just in time for the team to break for lunch, most graciously provided by the school.

For the remainder of the break time, CPO Maskell and the OCdts sat with a number of the teachers and pupils to answer any questions that they may have had.

The team were welcomed with a great sense of excitement and curiosity, with many young pupils showcasing an impressive knowledge of the role of the Royal Navy in general.

Upon the request of a number of staff, the OCdts put on a small demonstration of dressing on parade, standing to attention and saluting for the pupils.

This culminated in a short, instructive presentation given by OCdt Luke Harris during which the children were taught how to salute. This went down exceptionally well, with the team receiving a number of exemplary salutes as the students were returned to their classes for the afternoon.

After a pleasant break and some amazing school lunch, the group got back to work for the second set of tasks of the day. This included securing a number of motivational signs to the front gates of the school, clearing of gardening patches along the pathways, and the removal of a particularly overgrown bamboo plant.

These tasks were tackled with fervour, with the team making great progress before calling to a halt as the school day drew to a close. The OCdts finally retired from the School, tired but pleased with the progress made in such a short time, highly praised by the staff for assistance provided on the day.

OCdt Umar Ahmed said: "The work was greatly rewarding, and very well received, with the OCdts looking forward to another opportunity to assist in community outreach projects in the future".

Lieutenant Will Jones RN, Commanding Officer of the Oxford URNU said: "The Outreach Project was a huge success which delivered genuine benefits to the school and sparked much interest in the RN from the school children.

“It was fantastic to see the OCdts getting stuck in with their characteristic enthusiasm."

The Oxford URNU members that took part were: CPO Gary Maskell, Mid Emily O'Donovan, OCdt Emily Herbert, OCdt Luke Harris, OCdt Tom Murphy, OCdt Harry Williams, OCdt Umar Ahmed, OCdt Matt Kirtley and OCdt Jackson Cooper-Driver.

Oxford is one of 15 URNUs located across the UK offering opportunities to 750 undergraduates from the country’s leading universities.

The URNU's mission is: "To develop an understanding of the Naval Service in undergraduates, so that those who go into civilian employment are positive advocates thereof and to facilitate a Naval Career for those who choose one."

The URNU is a chance to experience military life without commitment and gain new skills applicable to all walks of life.