We were lucky enough to be given an “access all areas” tour of the stunning Forfar Community Campus yesterday (Tuesday), and we did not leave disappointed.
Whilst finishing touches were being made ahead of the opening of the new Forfar Academy tomorrow, and the sports and leisure facilities on Monday (February 20), what was more than evident was the incredible learning facility on offer which is both inspirational and inclusive.
The sports facilities are unrivalled in Angus, the drama studio is an enviable addition to the school and wider Forfar community, whilst the gymnasium, studios, squash court and six-lane swimming pool, as well as the outside sports facilities, take leisure facilities in the town to a whole new level.
Head teacher Mr Melvyn Lynch was our guide for the afternoon and he could not fail to contain his enthusiasm and excitement for the new building which will welcome 130 teaching and support staff, and just over 1000 pupils.
The attention to detail, the adaptability of the learning spaces and the lovely little touches herald an exciting new chapter in the school’s history.
On entering the main reception area you walk down “The Street” which links the front of the building to the rear and on to Taylor Street.
Signs in all languages welcome you to the campus and quotations from world leaders including Barak Obama, sports legend Mo Farah and civil rights activist Martin Luther King feature throughout the building.
The school’s rolls of honour and prize-winners’ boards feature prominently, and Mr Lynch confirmed the library will be called the John Vannet Memorial Library in tribute to the school’s deputy head teacher who died in May 2014, and the music department will be known as the Malcolm Dowie Music Department in tribute to the principal teacher of expressive arts who died in December.
The campus is on three levels - the ground floor hosts the reception area manned by school administration staff and staff from the charity ANGUS Alive - the culture, sport and leisure trust for Angus.
The building also houses the council’s communities team.
A large cafe area links the sport and leisure facilities with the school.
The reception area leads through to the drama studio, which can be used for year assemblies, and eight-court double main games hall - one of the biggest in Scotland.
There is a 25m six lane swimming pool with pool pod for disabled access, studio pool with moveable depth floor, sauna and steam room, gymnasium, 50 station fitness suite, two studio rooms, squash court and crèche
Stepping Stones Playgroup also has its own space complete with toilets and an outdoor play area.
The school area features a dining hall, an IT “break-out” area, an autism unit complete with sensory room, and a technical department featuring state-of-the-art equipment including an industrial standard plasma cutter - all on the ground floor.
The teaching spaces have been designed to be adaptable with various open areas and break out areas for staff and pupils.
There are computing rooms, tutorial rooms, rooms which can be partitioned off and community rooms which can be used by the public.
Water dispensers are located throughout the building and there are six lifts.
The music department features practice rooms, a percussion room and a recording studio.
The move from the old school has been a major undertaking and Mr Lynch praised all his staff and pupils, staff of Forfar Removals, as well as the school’s technicians - senior technicians Jane Cook, Paul Freeman and Helen Brymer, who have made it possible.
Commenting on the new building he said: “When I first came to Forfar I always said the school should be at the heart of the community.
“This provides a really fantastic opportunity for the community of Forfar and the surrounding areas to come together in one of the most impressive centres for learning, leisure, recreation and community involvement it’s been a privilege to work in.
“I can’t wait until the school part and the community wing, and leisure and recreation facilities merge together to provide the young people and the not so young people, like myself, of Forfar - the surrounding areas - with the most fantastic facilities. It’s just wonderful.
“There certainly has been a lot of mixed emotions and there has also been a lot of apprehension. Not just of change, but people saw from the outside what looked like a big block of a building.
“But coming through the doors, the atmosphere over the past few days as we prepare to welcome everyone into the campus has been really high energy, real excitement.
“We’ve run out of superlatives trying to describe it. It’s just amazing.
“There has been a tremendous amount of work put in by a lot of people, the youngsters, as well as members of staff, as well as people from other schools across Angus and Angus Alive staff. It’s been a major community event which is really going to pay dividends once we open our doors for business on Thursday for the school part, and Monday for the leisure and recreation.”
Among those enjoying a tour of the campus was Louise Nicoll, chairman of the school’s parent council.
She said: “I am really impressed with the campus - it is so clean, so friendly and so bright - it’s inspiring.
“It will provide a good learning experience for the pupils with all the mod cons, including the IT and Wi-Fi.
“I really like the use of the quotations around the building - the Martin Luther King one is brilliant. I have been surprised at how big it feels, the whole feeling of space in the corridors. The old school corridors were always quite dark.
“It is really quite sad to see the old school, which was my school, but this is tremendous.”