WEARSIDE’S latest new school has been given an official blessing as work begins.
Reverend Seamus Cunningham, Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle Diocese, blessed St Anthony’s Girls’ Catholic Academy as work gets underway on the new £15.4million school.
Headteacher Monica Shepherd and head girl Emily Best dug the first turf up for the two-year project which will see the old, cramped, run-down buildings replaced by a new state of the art facility.
Mrs Shepherd said: “This was an exciting and long-awaited day and I was delighted and honoured to be helping the students cut the first piece of ground.
“This will be a fantastic new school, building on the outstanding track record of St Anthony’s, with bright, modern classrooms, a new sports hall and extensive outdoor facilities.
“The students will get the best possible chance to continue to learn and achieve their full potential.
Teachers will have the best possible environment in which to continue to deliver the first class education our students deserve.”
The new secondary school will be constructed in the grounds of the existing Thornhill Road school to provide places for 1,050 pupils and a 400 pupil sixth form.
Because of the location of the school, in the middle of a residential and conservation area, the new development will have to be phased in over two years while the school is in operation.
Phil McDowell, project co-ordinator for Keir Construction, which is carrying out the work, said: “It has been a really, really complex project and has taken an awful lot of planning.”
The listed buildings at the front of St Anthony’s, which is celebrating its 110th anniversary this year, will be kept and refurbished in keeping with the historic nature of the area.
Head girl Emily, who is in Year 13, said a new school has been needed for a long time.
She said: “I think the new building will be outstanding. It will give the students all the facilities that they need.”
St Anthony’s originally missed out on Building Schools for Futures funding when the scheme was scrapped, but after a long journey the money for the new build has been made available through the Government’s Priority School Building Programme for those most in need.