THE town’s two new academies welcomed their first students this week.
Both The Hastings Academy and St Leonards Academy opened for the new school term on Tuesday.
More than 2,400 students donned brand new specially-designed uniforms for the first day of term which saw Hillcrest, The Grove and Filsham Valley schools merge into the two academies.
Work has begun on a new £15 million building for The Hastings Academy, on the Hillcrest site in Rye Road, and the project is expected to be completed in the academic year starting next September.
The St Leonards Academy, formed by the merger of The Grove and Filsham Valley schools, is based at the Edinburgh campus, formerly Filsham Valley, in Edinburgh Road.
Extensive improvements have been completed as work went on over the summer for 240 year seven students, who were the first intake for the St Leonards Academy’s Darwell campus at The Grove site in Darwell Close.
Around £500,000 was spent refurbishing existing rooms and the entire renovation programme there is expected to cost more than £15 million.
All of The St Leonards Academy’s students will eventually be based at the Edinburgh Road campus, leaving the former Grove buildings empty, by autumn 2013.
Jenny Jones, principal of The St Leonards Academy, said: “The plan is that the works at the Edinburgh Road campus start next Easter. This is a £17 million project, which includes remodelling, extension and complete refurbishment of existing buildings, as well as the building of a new sports hall.
“The first day was fantastic. It was great to see the youngsters coming in with their new uniforms on. It’s an exciting time and we’re starting from a strong point with the work done by the foundation over the last three years. Our aim is for these academies to be among the best in the country in a short time.”
Theresa Phillips, principal at The Hastings Academy, said: “Students achieved much-improved GCSE results this year and we are determined to build on that success.
“This is an exciting time and we have reached this point thanks to a great deal of hard work by dedicated people including all the staff at the academies, and we are extremely grateful to them all.”
The University of Brighton is the lead sponsor for the state-funded academies, along with co-sponsors East Sussex County Council and British Telecom.
Professor Julian Crampton, the university’s vice-chancellor, said: “We are delighted to be involved in a project that is improving education provision for so many young people. This is a considerable investment and all those connected with the project have worked extremely hard and deserve recognition for their efforts.
“I am proud of the university’s involvement which forms a significant part of our commitment towards helping the regeneration of Hastings and St Leonards.”