Today, the Daily Echo presents a special section devoted to the 450th anniversary of the foundation of Southampton's King Edward VI School. As it is the city's oldest seat of learning, this marks an important milestone not only for pupils, parents and staff, but for Southampton itself...

THE CHILDREN twirl and wave their hands in the air as they learn the steps to a traditional Tudor dance.

For Year 7 of Southampton's King Edward VI School, this is one of their more unusual history lessons.

And they are entering into it with a bucketful of youthful enthusiasm.

The boys are stamping their feet and occasionally breaking into moves more reminiscent of 21st century crooner Craig David than a farm worker living in West Wellow circa 1553.

The girls are giggling as their hair bobs in time to the centuries' old tune being played on a lute.

And around them paces a bearded man, dressed in traditional Tudor costume, complete with tunic, codpiece and leather boots, beating out a synchopated rhythm on a drum.

Although it's proving hot work, several of the boys are still wearing their school blazers, bearing a crest which is the cause of all this mass co-ordinated side-stepping.

Because it's the lion-laden royal crest which belonged to Tudor monarch Edward VI.

And one of the boy king's lasting achievements during his six-year reign was to found the Southampton school these pupils belong to - and give it his name.

All of which makes King Edward's the oldest school in Southampton, the second oldest in Hampshire and a mighty 450 years old.

To mark this auspicious birthday, staff decided Year 7 should take this crash course in what life was like in England when men wore tights and being burnt at the stake was regarded as public entertainment.

So they called in The Tudor Travellers, a touring trio of historical specialists born centuries too late.

The pupils clearly relish seeing history re-enacted and excitedly relay their favourite parts to headmaster Julian Thould during a lesson with him the next day.

"I feel lucky to be here during the 450th year because they are doing some really cool things," remarks Tom Greene, 12, from West Tytherley.

While Mr Thould - a history teacher himself - recognises the importance of the school's past, he's also got his sights fixed firmly on the future.

With the demise of grammar status, King Edward's is now independent and fee-paying, with 950 students drawn from all over Hampshire.

Schools must constantly evolve to continue to attract pupils. And King Edward's has major capital projects in the pipeline.

Work is to begin on a £3m project to build new science laboratories at the Kellett Road base within days.

And there are ongoing negotiations with planners to revamp land in White Lane, creating a games pavilion, AstroTurf pitch, plus volleyball and tennis facilities.

See the Saturday Review section of today's Daily Echo for more on the 450th anniversary of Southampton's King Edward VI School.