The former Prince of Wales is the College's Patron, and His Majesty came along to meet students, staff, governors and volunteers as a final celebration of its 150th anniversary. It was also the Monarch's first visit to the West Midlands region.
After meeting local dignitaries, the King was presented to Lucy Proctor, RNC's Executive Principal, who then escorted him throughout the visit.
John Ryan (Chair of Governors), The Hon Mrs Jessica White (President), Professor Tamar Thompson (Vice President) and Jonathan Brew and Peter Flynn (joint Vice Chair of Governors) were the first group to be introduced to the King.
A visit to the Kindred Suite followed where demonstrations of Braille, Assistive Technology, Mathematics and Massage & Complementary Therapies were underway.
King Charles chatted to student, River, at length about Braille and how important it still is as a means of communication. River gave the King a Braille print out of his name.
The College embraces new technologies which help with communication, navigation and independence. Students, Emma, Humna and Jamie, along with teachers, Leanne, Teresa and Grahame, were able to show the King some of the strides being made in screen reading and magnifying software along with the advancements of Braille technology and the use of smart phones, which all equip students with the skills to transition into the workplace or university.
Then to the world of mathematics where staff, Zoe and Helen, and students Orla and Harvey, explained how the subject was taught in a very tactile way.
The event was interrupted briefly when the King took time out to pet Orla's guide dog, Bobby, who was sitting off duty under the table.
Massage & Complementary Therapies students were busy at work when the King arrived to speak to them. The Head of the Department, Jim, explained the different types of massage being exhibited and spoke about the career opportunities available to students in this field.
The King put everyone at ease, he was cheerful and friendly and was inquisitive and genuinely interested in everything. He also laughed when shown a display of photos from his visit in 1979.
The College is home to the only Sports Academy for visual impairment in Europe. Sports include Blind Football, Goalball, Partially Sighted Football and Judo. His Majesty was whisked off to the Sports Hall where he was given a short demonstration of Blind Football before taking time to talk to players and staff - Adam, Owen, Jay, Freya, Katie, Ayman, Emma, Kieran and Dylan.
Introductions were made to two small groups of long serving residential and business support staff.
Before everyone took their seats for a commemorative photo with the King.
To mark the visit, the King unveiled a plaque before making a short speech. The plaque reads:
'To commemorate the visit to The Royal National College for the Blind by His Majesty King Charles III on Monday 12 December 2022 to mark the 150th anniversary year of the founding of the College'
In his speech, the King said:
‘In everything I have been shown today, it's been clear that the College is fully committed to the values reflected in its motto; education, employment, empowerment.
I have much enjoyed meeting some of you and interrupting your very important studies so that you could demonstrate to me what you are learning with Braille and with all of the other interesting new technologies that I hope are making life a bit easier for you.
All of this has been very apparent in the impressive personal confidence and skills demonstrated by the students, and it is hugely encouraging to see how the ethos of the College provides a real preparation for life.
It has been most moving to experience the supportive atmosphere and sense of community which are so obviously part of life here at the College and are reflected in the long service of the staff, some of whom I am very glad to say I had a moment to meet.’
Before his departure, the College Chair of Governors, John Ryan, took a moment to thank the King for taking the time to visit and presented him with an audible football.
After the whirlwind Royal visit, Lucy Proctor, commented:
‘It was really exciting and such a wonderful thing to happen at the end of our 150th anniversary year. The King was so well informed and so genuinely interested in the College. He seemed really pleased to be visiting and it was a real honour to host him and a huge lift to everybody’s spirits.’
The King's visit was reported in the news locally, regionally, nationally and globally and we are grateful for the interest and awareness that this visit has brought to the College.
Some samples of the coverage are shown below.
BBC Midlands Today (early evening bulletin)
BBC Midlands Today (late bulletin)
Local and National Press
Hereford Times 1
Hereford Times 2
The Daily Mail
BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester
Andrew Easton Show, 12 December 2022
Students Harvey Ford-Simms, Emma Stead, Freya Gavin and Kieran Clarke give their reactions to meeting the King.
Elliott Webb Show, 13 December 2022
The College's Executive Principal and student, Emma Thompson, talk about the Royal visit.