DECORATED sheep flocked to Portsmouth Cathedral as the climax of a project involving Church of England schools.

The lifesize, fibreglass sheep were brought to the cathedral as part of the Ewe Matter project, which involved children decorating the sheep over the past few months to reflect their school’s identity and ethos.

Hundreds of Year 6 pupils came from 30 different C of E primary schools in south-east Hampshire and the Isle of Wight on either Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday this week (July 3, 4 or 5) for workshops and a service to mark their last few days at primary school. The School Leavers’ Services, which happen each year, were deliberately themed around sheep this year, with pupils acting out the Parable of the Good Shepherd.

“Baa-bara” from Alverstoke C of E Junior School

The decorated sheep arrived at the cathedral via school coaches and minibuses. Five came across the Solent from Isle of Wight schools on the deck of a Wightlink ferry. And Baa-bara from Alverstoke C of E Junior School came across Portsmouth Harbour on the Gosport ferry. She stood in a pen with mock grass, which was created by carpenter Paul Dight, father of Year 6 teacher Sammy Swainston.

“We needed something so that we could bring the sheep over from Gosport and my dad designed a sheep pen on wheels,” she said. “There’s a picket fence around it and Baa-bara stands on some fake grass. The children from our art club designed the decoration for her, which reflects our school’s values of Love, Hope and Grace, and every Year 6 child got involved in the decoration.”

Headteacher Graham Cutter said: “It’s great for our pupils to see that their sheep is part of a whole flock. They can feel part of the Gosport school community, but they don’t always feel part of the community of C of E schools locally, and this project has helped with that.”

Dominika Gumiela, 11, from Oakfield C of E Primary School in Ryde, on the Isle of Wight, said: “We’ve decorated half of our sheep, and next year’s Year 6s from Arreton St George’s School will complete them. Next year’s Year 6s at Oakfield will complete the sheep that Arreton St George’s started.”

Over the course of the three days the number of decorated, fibreglass sheep at the cathedral increased, until all 22 were there for the third of the three Leavers’ Services today (Wednesday 5th). The Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Rev Christopher Foster, led the service on the Tuesday (July 4), while other senior clergy led the services on the other two days.

The sheep-related workshops before the services each day included a sheep trail around the cathedral, craft activities, a singing workshop with choristers, and a visit to the willow chapel outside on Cathedral Green.

Jacob Compton, 11, from All Saints C of E Primary School in Freshwater, said: “I liked making our own sheep, and I liked the session when we made a shepherd’s crook.”

Ewe Matter was devised by Jeff Williams, director of education for Portsmouth and Winchester C of E dioceses. It’s a way of linking parish churches and C of E schools across both dioceses. The fibreglass sheep can be used by churchgoers who lead school assemblies on Biblical themes, and can be brought by schools when they visit local churches. They can even be used as part of science, English and RE lessons.

Education staff from Portsmouth and Winchester dioceses have devised Ewe Matter resources that can be used by schools as part of assemblies and the school curriculum. The decorated sheep will go back to their schools now that the Leavers’ Services have finished, so that they can be used in future.



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