One thousand six hundred children (and almost 50 sheep!) flock to Winchester Cathedral for Leavers’

    22 June 2017

    More than one 1,600 year six pupils from 60 Church of England schools across Hampshire attended three leavers’ services at Winchester Cathedral last week as they prepared to move on to secondary school.

    The services also marked the culmination of the Ewe Matter project, an inter-generational initiative that has run across Hampshire church schools over the past six months, with the aim of fostering closer links between schools and the parishes in which they sit.

    Earlier this year, fibreglass sheep were delivered to church schools across Hampshire - they were then decorated by pupils, often with the assistance of worshippers from local parishes, particularly those from the older generation. The project sought to help students to think positively about their self-worth as well as the value of the skills and experience of people from older generations.

    The entire flock of almost fifty brightly decorated sheep was assembled at the front of Winchester Cathedral for the services. An Array of creative designs was on display, with some sheep sporting eyelashes, whilst others were adorned with a range of stripes, gems and symbols representing the values of each school and their geographical location.

    The Rt Rev Tim Dakin, the Bishop of Winchester, and The Rt Revd Dr Jonathan Frost, the Bishop of Southampton presented each school with a commemorative candle. On Friday the Bishop of Winchester taught the children words in Swahili and compared an African crook with those used elsewhere as he reflected on the Parable of the Lost Sheep, which tells the story of a shepherd who leaves his large flock to find a sheep that had become lost. They were also given warm words of encouragement for this next chapter in their lives.

    Meanwhile, individual sheep will return to schools where they will continue to be used in collective worship and across a range of national curriculum areas.

    Commenting, The Rt Rev Tim Dakin, the Bishop of Winchester said:

    “These leavers’ services marked a poignant moment for children as they prepare to open the next chapter of their lives and move on to secondary school. It was great to have so many young people in the Cathedral and to deliver the important message that the Parable of the Lost Sheep tells. It was also a pleasure to see the amazing work that children across Hampshire had done in decorating these sheep as part of the Ewe Matter project.”

    Commenting, Jeff Williams, Director of Education for the Winchester and Portsmouth dioceses, said:

    “Throughout this project people have been extraordinarily enthusiastic – not just the schoolchildren, but their teachers, governors and support staff too! The results of this enthusiasm are clear and I am so impressed with the brilliant job that children in church schools across Hampshire have done in decorating their Ewes. Ewe Matter has been a lot of fun – but it has also had a serious message, encouraging young people to learn from the older generation and reminding them of how important positive self-worth is. I am delighted, and inspired, by how well things have gone and am already looking forward to next year when our focus will celebrate Remembrance, given the significance of 2018 in the life of the nation.”


    Notes to Editors

    For more information please contact the Diocese of Winchester communications team on either 020 7618 9197 or at

    More information about the Ewe Matter project can be found here: