A cadet is flying high as he looks forward to a royal appointment following a year supporting the Queen’s representative in Northumberland.

Matthew Whithead 1Matthew Whitehead, a student at Bede Academy, in Blyth, has just completed 12 months as a Lord Lieutenant’s Cadet during which he met Prince Edward and attended a garden party at Alnwick Gardens.

The 18-year-old has been rewarded with promotion to Royal Air Force cadet warrant officer – the highest rank possible for a cadet – and an invitation to a royal garden party at Buckingham Palace, which he will attend with his mum Christine Whitehead.

Matthew, who is studying for his A levels in mathematics, history and economics at Bede Academy, joined No 1000 (Blyth) Squadron in the Durham and Northumberland Air Training Corps six years ago.

He was the first in his squadron to be appointed Lord Lieutenant’s Cadet, an honour bestowed in recognition of outstanding service

He said: “When I was 12 I wanted to be a pilot. One of my friends joined the cadets so I went along to see what it was all about.

Matthew is now aiming for a career in the RAF as a legal officer after studying law at Durham University.

“As I got older I decided I want to study law but I still wanted to be in the military, so this career allows me to do both. You have to be a fully qualified solicitor as it involves advising station commanders on legal matters, but you are also a commissioned officer in the RAF,” he explained.

Matthew, whose mum is a primary school teacher and dad John is a lawyer based in Bedlington, attends his squadron at the TA Centre in Blyth twice a week and also takes part courses and weekend and week-long camps.

Among his achievements is passing the cadet junior leaders course, which only 776 cadets have achieved in 17 years. Run by serving RAF officers, the course involved seven months of training culminating in an eight-day test in the field, earning Matthew a maroon lanyard for his uniform.

Although he will soon be too old to be a cadet, he is planning to stay with his squadron by joining the RAF Reserves once at university.

Matthew added: “The qualities that you gain from being in the cadets complement what we do at Bede Academy, things like leadership, discipline and serving others.

“I’ve learned a lot and want to give something back to my squadron by helping train the young cadets, and eventually I might even get my own squadron to run.”

A young police cadet has been presented with an award from the man she hopes will be her future boss.

Chief Constable of Northumbria Steve Ashman with the force’s 300th Duke of Edinburgh Police Cadet Chloe Warnes and Steve Southern and Nicola Meredith of Duke of Edinburgh, at Bede Academy, Blyth

Chief Constable of Northumbria Steve Ashman with the force’s 300th Duke of Edinburgh Police Cadet Chloe Warnes and Steve Southern and Nicola Meredith of Duke of Edinburgh, at Bede Academy, Blyth

Chloe Warnes is the 300th cadet to have enrolled in the Northumbria Police Cadets Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme and has just achieved her bronze award

Chief Constable Steve Ashman visited her school, Bede Academy, in Blyth, to present Chloe with a certificate in assembly.

The 16-year-old, of Blyth, wants to study law prior to starting a career in the police force. She said: “I have always been interested in joining the police and I wanted to do something that would give me some experience.

“The cadet scheme gives you an insight into what the police deal with. It’s unbelievable how many friends you make, the experience you gain from it and the different activities you get to do.”

Chloe attends the cadet scheme once a week and has trained in first aid, crime prevention, marching, fitness and other aspects of the award.

Chief Constable Ashman said: “Chloe was the first in her cohort to complete the bronze award and she has gone on to work towards the silver award, so she’s not just taking part, she’s doing very well.”

After listening to the assembly theme of determination, he added: “The emphasis on ‘character counts’ at Bede Academy is a wonderful ethos.

“As someone who leads a large organisation, what we look for in people is not always what they have in terms of exams. One of the biggest things we look for is what they have inside. Have they got character and determination? It’s really important.”

A growing number of students at Bede Academy are following the wider Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

Vice principal Steve Nelson added: “It is an extremely worthwhile programme that aligns perfectly with our ethos of character counts and developing students through personal challenge and public service.”

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Members of the Bede Academy junior choir enjoy their rehearsal with Opera North

Young singers are tuning up for a unique opportunity that is giving them their first taste of opera.

Bede Academy, in Blyth, is collaborating with Opera North in workshops leading to a performance in the inspiring surroundings of Hexham Abbey on July 1.

Members of the academy’s junior choir are learning songs for the performance, Myths and Legends, in which children from just four other North East schools will take part, alongside Opera North’s chorus.

Director of music at Bede Helen Kerr explained: “This opportunity for some of our students to not only benefit from coaching by members of Opera North in the run-up to the performance but also then to have the privilege of singing with their professional chorus in the abbey is something really special.

“Collaborations like this are extremely valuable to us and the students do appreciate how lucky they are and the amount they can learn from the experience.

“We provide numerous opportunities for all students at the academy to get involved in performances and music and this collaboration is really building on that for our talented singers.”

Matt Beckingham, artistic head of Leeds-based Opera North’s education vocal programme, led the second workshop at the academy, accompanied by pianist Chris Pulleyn.

Matt said of the Bede students:  “They are doing well, they’re really flying. It’s evident that singing is a big part of the academy.”

Amelia Jenkins, 11, of Blyth, said: “We have never done opera before and it’s really good. It’s completely different because it’s acting and singing and you have to get into the character. It will be nerve-wracking to sing at the abbey but there will be lots of us and it’s really exciting.”

Music groups meet every day after school and most lunchtimes at the academy, including the junior, senior and cantata choirs, jazz band and orchestra. Rehearsals are also under way for an ambitious production of Les Miserables in October.

Opera North Education works with many different groups from babies and early years to schools and adult groups across the North of England to inspire audiences, engage communities and challenge preconceptions of opera.