STUDENTS in Winterbourne have not only started the academic year in smart new uniforms but have also been welcomed into their new £19million building.

Winterbourne International Academy has been transformed over the past year from 60-year-old crumbling classrooms to a modern teaching centre which features a new 320-seater auditorium, extended library and interactive theatre. A cashless catering system will see pupils pay for their dinners online and printers are now operated by fingerprint recognition.

And today (September 2), pupils got to explore the new building for the first time.

Principal Rob Evans said: “It is a learning curve but we have had a very positive start and there has been some very positive feedback so far.

"As well as the new buildings we have a new ethos based on pride. That is, pride in our environment, pride in ourselves and pride in our learning."

He added: "The best part of the new building is the learning environment it has created for the students. It will mean we can build on the success we have had in some very dated classrooms in our new facilities.”

Now fit for purpose to serve its 1,900 students, the rebuild project was one of the largest in the UK and was prioritised by the government because of Winterbourne’s academy status, which it achieved in 2009 in a pathfinder scheme in conjunction with Yate International Academy.

It is now in its third phase, with demolition work underway on the old classrooms some of which stand just feet away from the new building. Once knocked down, more outside spaces will be created for students and a new car park will be located on High Street where the main entrance, moved to the sports centre on Flaxpits Lane during construction, will once again be in use.

Director of studies Natalie Wilcox said: “I can’t wait to see how much more outdoor space we have. There will be new seating areas, flower beds and spaces to play come January. I think it will be a big shock for students when they come back after Christmas.

“I am really pleased with the new library, or learning resource centre. The old one we had was nowhere near big enough, then it was moved into a cupboard, and now finally we have one big enough for a school this size.”

Students said they were thrilled with the new building.

Isaac Aspinall, 12, said: “It feels a lot brighter and looks much nicer. The auditorium looks quite cool and I like the fingerprint technology.

“I think I will work harder and it is nice to be the first set of students to use the buildings rather than be in classrooms which are 60 years old.”

Callum Phillips, also 12, said: “There is much more space now and it feels less claustrophobic.

“The old building looked really rough from the outside and the toilets smelt really bad so it is really nice to be in a new building.”