A fire-ravaged Leyland school is rising phoenix-like from the ashes as the academic year gets underway.
Staff and pupils at St Mary’s Catholic High School are hoping to draw a line under a troubled past as they settle into the new £7.5m building in Royal Avenue.
Although the finishing touches are still being put to the state-of-the art premises, lessons are in full swing in the state-of the art classrooms.
The facilities have been transformed since the school was severely damaged in an arson attack two years ago.
In just 14 months, the remains of the existing school has been incorporated into a completely new build, which boasts wide corridors bright and airy classrooms , laboratories with up-to-the minute technology and carpet on the floors.
There is still work to be done but the school is definitely in a better place now.
Right up until the start of the new term some classes were operating out of portable classrooms and recreation areas were given over to a building site.
Executive headteacher Phil Mooney said: “Seeing their faces when they first arrived was like watching children open their presents on Christmas Day.
“It gives me a great sense of pride.
“I think everyone’s proud of the school, particularly the children and the families that have been loyal throughout have greeted the new building with such gusto.”
During rebuilding the school suffered serious problems when some staff went on strike and others left amid claims of industrial dispute.
The school was placed in special measures in October 2014 after a team from the Office for Standards in Education carried out a full inspection.
However Ofsted has since praised the way in which teaching is improving and, says the headteacher, is on its way to becoming a good school.
Aspirations for all pupils have been raised and, according to Ofsted: “The current picture of the school is one of improved morale and positive attitude.”
Mr Mooney said he was under no illusions that “There is still a lot to be done.”
However, he is confident that the impressive new surroundings, coupled with changes to the way the school now operates, including a big overhaul of the school day, will have a big impact on standards.
He added: “There is still work to be done but the school is definitely in a better place now.”
A spokesman for the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women, which was in dispute with the school, said: “ As staff and pupils start the new academic year by moving into their beautiful new buildings, both governors and the NASUWT are pleased to publicly announce that in view of the progress which has been made in resolving the issues which last year promoted the local dispute and subsequent strike action.
“That action is now formally withdrawn and the dispute resolved.”
“Together we wish everybody a happy and successful future in this wonderful new environment.”
Besides running St Mary’s, Mr Mooney is headteacher at Cardinal Allen Catholic High in Fleetwood.
He said: “This is a wonderful job and I have had a lot of messages of support asking me to stay but while I have loved being here I love my school in Fleetwood and have put a lot of work into that over the past 10 years.”
Mr Mooney said he had received a lot of support from the new governing body who had worked with him to help re-stablise and re-build community trust in the school. It is hoped a permanent head will be appointed by the end of the year.