A sea of Union Jacks greeted Prince Charles as the royal Bentley drove into the entrance of Yavneh College in Borehamwood.
There were “oohs” and “aahs” from pupils — and shouts of “we love your car”.
The two-hour visit, 18 months in the planning, was largely down to Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who the Prince said had “convinced” him to go to Yavneh.
He was shown classrooms and the main hall, where pupils showcased social action activities such as preparing items for distribution at a local food bank.
Students and staff were amused when the Prince participated in a balloon crown-making session for the Gift charity. The royal “crown” will go to a child with special needs.
“The Chief Rabbi was very insistent that I come and see it,” he told pupils. “Of course, I totally understand now on coming here what a truly remarkable place it is.”
Apologising for being “an appalling disruption to your studies”, he continued: “For me it has been a remarkable insight into the way in which this particular Jewish school is run.
“I have been enormously impressed by so many of you, who do so much community involvement and fit several different things into your school programme.”
He met pupils involved in social action through programmes including the Yoni Jesner and Duke of Edinburgh awards. He also talked to students who belong to JLGB, which works alongside the school to provide a framework of national volunteering activity.
Eight-year-old Shenley JLGB members Maya Larholm, Abigail Taylor and Alliyah Mandel were thrilled to meet the Prince. Shenley juniors are funded by Youth United, a Prince of Wales initiative.
“He spoke to us but I was so excited I’ve forgotten what he said,” Maya confided. “Oh no.”
“Don’t worry Maya, me too,” Alliyah assured her. “It was so exciting we just can’t remember.”
Prince Charles also visited the food technology room where students showed off challah and cakes they had prepared for those in need in the local community.
Keen to show off his Jewish knowledge, the Prince asked if the fruit cake was kosher and for Purim, at which point Rabbi Mirvis had to explain the next festival was Tu Bishvat.
As part of the tour, Prince Charles additionally spent time in the Yavneh technology room where he talked to 14-year-old Josh Bond, who showed him how to make a mobile phone case out of plastic.
“He told me it was very clever and good that it goes to children in hospital,” Josh said. “It was really cool talking to him — I’m still shaking.”
The royal tour ended with a school assembly. Students were on their best behaviour as the Prince entered the hall, accompanied by local MPs and councillors.
Rabbi Mirvis said during the visit: “Today is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the achievements of Yavneh College.
“It is also a day to recognise the invaluable contribution that so many excellent faith schools make to life in modern Britain.
“In a context where faith communities often feel that there is a lack of appreciation for the invaluable role that their schools play in creating a fairer society, the presence of His Royal Highness provides us with an opportunity to celebrate faith as a powerful force for good.”
The Prince had not intended to address pupils but, inspired by what he had seen, changed his mind.
“Clearly the school is going to produce some very special people at the end of the whole process,” he told them. “As I get older and older, I shall look forward to seeing what you all go on to do. You will make a great contribution to the future of this country and it is down to the education and the encouragement that you have had here."
Spencer Lewis, the school’s head, was “particularly proud to show how the fantastic work our students do in the local and wider communities are not only done out of a sense of social responsibility, but also out of an understanding that improving the world around them is a fundamental axiom of Jewish belief”.