Bedford Academy will move into its new home next month, after the opening of the £22.5million premises in Mile Road - and the Times & Citizen was given a personal tour last week.
The new building consists of 67 classrooms, five open plan learning areas, plus an all-new drama hall, dance studio, sports hall, main hall and library, as well as two rooftop terraces.
Principal Claire Smith has overseen the design and construction of the building since shortly after her arrival at the school in November 2009, and was excited to reveal the school’s new home.
Mrs Smith said: “It’s been amazing, particularly going from working with building blocks on a table to actually seeing it being created.
“The work is building around the school’s vision and structure, with the learning villages that are the hub of the entire Academy.
“The school ethos is about making sure that students achieve success, and supporting all of our students. That is what we want to develop in this environment - it’s a high-status building, and we have high expectations of our students.”
Work has been carried out by local firm Wilmott Dixon, and is part of an ongoing transformation of the school. Since Mrs Smith took over in 2009 the school changed from John Bunyan Upper School to become Bedford Academy 10 months later, and by summer 2014 the school will increase in size so that children start there from age 11 instead of the current age 13.
Planning for new building began at the end of 2009, with design work beginning the next year.
The groundworks began in August 2010 and have continued for two years, and there was still the smell of fresh paint in the sports hall when the Times & Citizen arrived.
Until the students move next month they will continue to study in the existing building, but after that it will be razed to the ground, and the site will become an extension to the Academy’s sports area.
Julie Lombardo, the director of finance and operations, has been visiting the building site on a weekly basis, and more recently has been there up to three times and week.
She said: “This has been a fantastic opportunity. How often do you get to do something like this? It’s very exciting to be involved in.
“Particularly in the last few weeks things have been changing dramatically every single day.”
She added: “The most challenging stage was coming to the final agreement of the layout drawings for each room. We had to tie in the data, the furnishings and the lay-out, to make sure that it meets the requirements for the teachers, for our students, and that it’s flexible too.
“That meant going through several drafts, but it was important to make sure that it was what our staff wanted, not what I thought they should want.”
The Times & Citizen was shown around the school along with four Year 10 pupils who were also getting to see the inside of their new premises for the first time.
Keiran Sleap said: “We’ve been preparing for the move because we’ve known it’s coming up, but coming here and seeing inside is still a shock because it’s so big and it’s such a change.
“I’m really looking forward to it.”