FOLLOWING two years of construction work, a new £36 million secondary school is getting ready to welcome pupils.
After what has been described as a journey from old to new, the finishing touches are now being made to the Ellon Academy Community Campus ahead of the new term on August 20.
And today making history are Jennifer Hendry and Max Poole – the first ever head girl and head boy at the new Ellon Academy.
This week, the pair have been leading a series of preview tours around the new campus to showcase the building to the community.
The state-of-the-art facility replaces the old Ellon Academy and annexe, as well as the community centre and swimming pool.
Head girl Jennifer said: “What is exciting is that we are the first pupils in this brand new school, everything that we do here will be done for the first time.
“It has been built around pupils, we have so much more space in this school.”
In the heart of the school is an atrium area boasting fold-away lecture-theatre style seating for assemblies and drama performances, and social areas for pupils on every floor.
Project manager Mike Porter said: “One of the main criticisms we kept hearing with the old school was that it was dull and dingy. And one of the main briefing elements we received was to make sure the school was compliant with the Curriculum for Excellence.
“I think the school has gone a long way to achieving that through a variety of learning spaces now available.”
With the emphasis very much on clever use of space, the majority of classrooms are equipped with the latest smart board technology, but every classroom features cupboards which can be written on as whiteboards.
And as well as the traditional classrooms there are now open learning areas for group work or one to one sessions.
Head boy, Max, who hopes to join the army after school, has welcomed the improved PE facilities.
He said: “The pool is 25m long and can be used for competitions and there is also a training pool too with a moveable floor.
“I help out with disability swimming and this will make such a difference to people who aren’t confident in the pool. The difference with this building is that there is something to suit everyone.”
The pool and community rooms are all located on the ground floor sharing a single point reception, integrating the school with the wider residents of Ellon. In addition to a gym, there is also a dance studio with a sprung floor and a large games hall. There is also a new addition to the school uniform – pupils will now wear blazers for the first time in many years.
While another first for the school is unisex toilets and changing facilities – although single-sex toilets are also available.
Although the new building has moved slightly outwith the town, the essence of the community has been captured through a project called the River of Words.
Pupils across all age ranges worked with artist Mary Bourne to create a bespoke glass panel etched with pupils’ thoughts and memories of Ellon, in their own handwriting. The show-stopping art installation forms the glass wall between the pool and entrance hall.
And while the school itself is brand new, where equipment from the previous school could be reused it was – and any surplus will be allocated to other schools.
Other artefacts from the old building have also been incorporated. One boxed display features an old door handle, while another contains the handle of the first hand-bell used at the academy.