A ROYAL boost from the Duchess of Cambridge has helped an Oxford charity expand.
The Duchess chose The Art Room last January as one of four charities where she would take the role of patron.
Now – one year on – the charity has announced it is to set up a new class at Stephen Freeman Primary School in Didcot, potential from next month.
It also plans to open two more art rooms at locations yet to be decided and it could see the number of children the charity helps each week almost double from 270 to 500.
The Art Room is a charity aimed at five to 16-year-olds who are experiencing emotional and behavioural difficulties. Children are inviting to create art at one of school Art Room venues, as way of improving their self esteem and confidence. Founder director of The Art Room Juli Beattie said: “It has been a fantastic year for The Art Room since HRH The Duchess of Cambridge became our royal patron.
“Her support has been instrumental in taking our charity to the next level in our drive to become a national organisation taking art as therapy to more and more children.
“Since the Duchess of Cambridge came to the Art Room in Rose Hill, and at Oxford Spires, we have been able to raise funds to help us work towards the opening of two new art rooms in the next few months.
“It is our aim to provide help to children most in need be it when they become disengaged from mainstream education, are disruptive, withdrawn or have learning difficulties.”
Ms Beattie said the Duchess has been “very supportive” throughout the year, and in June invited 150 art room children, including 50 pupils from Oxford Spires Academy, to a performance of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in London.
Among supporters in the past year were Sir Hector Sants, former chief executive officer of the Financial Services Authority, who donated about £100,000 from bonus payments, Ms Beattie added.
Last February, Kate, who turned 31 yesterday, visited Rose Hill Primary School, then Oxford Spires Academy in her official role.
Rose Hill Primary Art Room manager Lisa Hancock, 38, who lives in Oxford, said: “The children very much enjoyed the Duchess’s visit and were inspired by her presence. We work with children aged five to 16 experiencing challenges in education and the artwork they do empowers them and makes them feel confident.
“We are very much looking forward to working with pupils in Didcot.”
There are art rooms at Oxford Spires Academy, Rose Hill Primary School, Orchard Meadow Primary School in Blackbird Leys, at Matthew Arnold School, Cumnor, and at Robert Blair Primary School in London.
Ms Beattie said figures were not yet available to see if donations to the charity increased in 2012, compared to the previous year.
She added: “The Palace gave us five places in the London Marathon last year and that raised £30,000.
“As a charity we can never be complacent that we have enough donations.”