LESS than a year after foundations were laid on the site, pupils have started their first classes in their new Swanage School building.

The historic first day took place on Friday and even the driving rain failed to dampen spirits.

Swanage School head teacher Tristram Hobson was thrilled his students and staff had finally moved into the building, which stands at the former Swanage Middle School’s High Street campus.

He said: “The Swanage School has a new home with specially designed spaces that provide the perfect environment for the school to work together, learn together and celebrate together.

“And the High Street site is an ideal base for us to continue educating our students with the wonderful coastline and countryside around us.”

More than 100 students started at the school’s temporary campus, at Harrow House language college in September, while building work continued at their new home.

Contractor Kier constructed the new school building on time, despite tough working conditions because of the winter’s stormy weather.

Swanage School chairman of governors Paul Angel said: “It has been a long campaign to see a secondary school open in Swanage for the first time in 40 years, but the speed of the actual build has been astonishing.

“I cannot thank Kier and the Department for Education (DfE) enough. Our new facilities are fantastic and will allow staff to continue delivering a first-rate education to our students.”

The DfE announced the, then proposed Swanage School, could become one of 55 new free schools in October 2011.

Campaign group Education Swanage had been working to establish a secondary school since 2010, after county education chiefs ruled against a site in the town as part of a £36.5 million Purbeck schools shake-up.

The new building boasts two-storey wings of classrooms either side of a central hall, plus a full-sized sports hall. It includes science labs, computer suites, kitchens and art & design workshops.

The school is holding a community open day on Saturday, May 17, from noon until 5pm. It is for anybody interested in taking a tour of the new buildings.