Staff and students from Richard Challoner School travel in 17 double-decker buses to St George’s Cathedral, Southwark, to celebrate Mass for their school feast day

On Friday September 23, more than 1,000 staff and students from Richard Challoner School, New Malden, Surrey, travelled in 17 double-decker buses to St George’s Cathedral, Southwark, to celebrate Mass for their annual school feast day: Challoner Day.

Pupils gathered in school from 7 am and were shortly followed by the double-decker buses, including five “old style” Routemaster buses. It was a brilliant sight and really reflected the friendly, welcoming nature of the school community.

This was the first time the school had attended Mass at St George’s Cathedral. The Mass was celebrated by Mgr Bill Saunders, who is an ex-teacher of Richard Challoner. Bishop Emeritus Howard Tripp, Fr John Diver, Fr Kevan Hayden and Canon John O’Toole, all concelebrated. Challoner Day is normally celebrated at Our Lady Immaculate church, in Tolworth, but the numbers on roll at the school have now grown to the extent that the school cannot fit into the church.

Richard Challoner is an oversubscribed boys secondary school on the edge of the Southwark diocese and has just converted to academy status. This year also marks the 25th year of service in the school for headteacher Tom Cahill. Under Mr Cahill’s leadership the school has achieved area-leading exam results, and “outstanding” status from Ofsted. This was the 20th time that the school has celebrated Challoner Day and for many of the staff who attended it will rank as one of the best.

The acoustics at St George’s Cathedral helped to amplify the inspiring music for Mass led by the school choir. At the offertory pupils sang a beautiful rendition of Mendelssohn’s “O for the Wings of a Dove”, featuring an angelic solo by Oliver Relf (Year 9), and after Communion sang “The Beatitudes”, which was written and composed by the director of music, Simon Amura.

The music was so inspiring that a member of the public who was walking past the cathedral came in and then stayed until the end of the Mass.

The day will live long in their memories. James Finch (Year 7) said it was “the best day I’ve had at Richard Challoner and really summed up what it is like to be at the school”.