To the sound of pipes and drums and against the backdrop of snow covered Angus glens, Forfar Academy pupils have marched into a new era of education for the town.
On Thursday they made the short but symbolic journey from the 52-year-old Taylor Street secondary to a state-of-the-art new school contained within the £39 million Forfar community campus.
Forfar Academy head teacher Melvyn Lynch described the event as akin to Christmas morning for the vast majority of the 1,000-strong school roll, the vast majority of whom were seeing the inside of the new building for the first time when they walked through the doors after an extended half-term break to allow the flit to be completed.
In their houses of Cally, Moy and Lethnot, the vanguard of youngsters was led by former pupil and piper Danielle Myles, her parents and drummer S6 pupil Lewis Pass the short distance to the showpiece facility.
Mr Lynch said: “This is an historic day for everyone associated with the new campus and the Academy.
“It is a real privilege to be involved in such a momentous occasion.
“Staff and pupils have watched the building develop over the past two years and now we are in.
“We are all delighted and I’m sure everyone will be blown away by the new campus and the learning environment provided, which is as good as any in the country.
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“A very small number of the pupils have been down during the construction phase, but for 99% of them it is going to be absolutely brand new — it’s going to be like opening a present on Christmas morning.”
Mr Lynch added: “While we are keen to retain the unique and individual identity of Forfar Academy, we are equally determined to move ahead into what will surely be a tremendous future for the campus, which will provide inter-generational opportunities for all in the town and surrounding areas.
“Another strength will be the ready accessibility for everyone using the facilities, with the provision of lifts, ramps, hearing loops, pool access pods and everything you would expect in a modern campus.”
Forfar Academy head boy Uthman Ahmed said: “It’s definitely an exciting day for both the school and the community.”
Angus children and learning convener, Councillor Sheena Welsh said: “This modern, fit-for-purpose community campus is focal point for Forfar.
“We are committed to delivering the very best facilities for the whole community and this campus is a facility that residents can be proud of.”
Sports and community facilities including a six-lane swimming pool, large sports hall and theatre space have also been built into the facility, with those opening to the public next week after a weekend of heavily subscribed sneak preview sessions.
“The sharing of accommodation by different age groups has positive benefits for the community,” added Mrs Welsh.
“It creates opportunities for people of all ages to spend time together and share skills and experiences.
“This philosophy underpins the campus vision.”
“I would like to also pay tribute to all the staff and young people for their hard work and dedication in supporting the move. This has been a real team effort.”
The road to the new Forfar Community Campus
Councillors gave the planning green light to the campus in 2014 and groundworks at the site were under way by the beginning of 2015.
The official sod cutting ceremony was carried out by Scottish cabinet minister Keith Brown in June 2015.
By December 2015 construction had reached its topping out point — the highest part on the new build.
Forfar Academy head teacher Melvyn Lynch got a bird’s eye view of the campus project around that time when he was rescued from a 25-metre crane as part of an emergency services training exercise on the site.
The formal handover of the campus from East Central Territory Hubco, and in partnership with Robertson Tayside, to Angus Council took place on Monday February 6.
The sports centre at the campus will open to the public from Monday.
It features a 25 metre, six lane swimming pool with pool pod, studio pool with moveable depth floor, sauna and steam room, eight-court double main games hall, gymnasium, 50 station fitness suite, two studio rooms, squash court and crèche.
The leisure provision includes a theatre, bookable meeting rooms and cafe.
Outdoor facilities including a floodlit full-size synthetic grass pitch, multi-use games area pitch and grass pitches will be ready in Autumn 2018.
Lochside leisure centre and the 107-year-old Fiorfar swimming pool at The Vennel closed earlier this month.
The second phase of the campus project will see the demolition of old school buildings and the completion of the external works, including the sports fields.