A MULTI-MILLION pound building has been opened for pupils and staff at Thurrock’s first free school.
The Gateway Primary Free School, on the site of Gateway Academy, in Marshfoot Road, opened to Year Six pupils in September 2012.
Foundation pupils, aged four and five, joined last year, with both year groups using classrooms in the academy building.
Now, the free school has its own building, with classrooms that are equipped with interactive TV screens and the latest computer technology.
From September, the school will be ready to take primary school children of all ages.
The £7.5million project will enable pupils and staff to share resources with the academy, as well as Lansdowne Primary Academy, in Tilbury, and Herringham Primary Academy, in Chadwell St Mary.
All the schools are run by the Ormiston Trust as part of the Gateway Learning Community.
Tilbury Manor Primary School, in Dickens Avenue, is set to join them, and will become an academy next month.
The plan will see Tilbury Manor and the free school become a twoform entry primary school.
Kevin Sadler, chief executive of the Gateway Learning Community, said: “This is the end of a lot of work, but the beginning of the real work, because this is all about raising standards, raising attitudes towards learning and raising aspirations.
“We’re working collaboratively, which is what our leaning community is all about, providing local solutions to the local problems.”
The new building features a slide from the foundation class straight into the playground and a giant screen in the reception area promoting events at the school and providing a live news feed.
Thom Martin, headteacher at the free school, said he was thrilled as the building opened.
He said: “I feel a bit overwhelmed with what we’ve got here. We’ve been waiting for it for so long. The children are thrilled, too.
"They’d never seen it before, despite being in such close proximity to it. We’ve gone from having such little space to something so enormous.”
ThurrockMPJackie Doyle-Price said the facilities on offer and the free school and academy system were the way forward for education in the borough.
She said: “When I first met Kevin Sadler he had these ambitious plans for a primary school. The council said ‘you can’t do that, we need secondary schools, and wouldn’t get involved’.
“We said ‘no, they (Gateway Learning Community) can do both’, and here we are.”