New Harpenden school welcomes first intake of pupils

Harpenden Academy principal Marissa Davis with pupils from the school

Harpenden Academy principal Marissa Davis with pupils from the school - Credit: Archant

A vibrant new primary school with state-of-the-art technology has opened its doors to hundreds of excited youngsters in the heart of Harpenden.

Three years after Harpenden Academy began life in temporary accommodation – a 14th century tithe barn in Redbourn – as Harpenden Free School, the institution is celebrating its brand new and permanent base, in the former town library.

Construction of the school began on the corner of Vaughan and Victoria Roads last year, following the clearing of the site’s 1960s library extension, the youth centre building and derelict workshops at the rear.

A beaming principal, Marissa Davis, proudly showed the Herts Advertiser around the new school, constructed by Willmott Dixon.

Pointing out the spacious classrooms, all of which boast high ceilings and an abundance of light courtesy of many large windows, Marissa explained that the former library had undergone a thorough revamp.

However, when builders discovered its original parquet floors, it was decided they would be retained as a period feature – the building itself dates back to Victorian times.

The former library how houses reception-age children, along with Years 1 and 2 pupils. There is also an open plan library, leading to an impressive hall which has a large screen and doubles as a dining area, where healthy meals are served.

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Marissa said that the hall was multi-purpose as, in the near future, quiz nights and community events were expected to be hosted there.

Beyond the hall, near an artificial slope built at the centre of the site for children to play on, is a new building with classrooms for Years 3-6.

As well as giving pupils views across the town, the block has a discovery room where pupils can learn to cook, and a multi-purpose room for the likes of drama and music.

There are also numerous areas set aside for outside learning, not to mention a ‘train-spotting’ platform.

Marissa said: “Young children need space – they need room to move. And our children have already amazed me by how they are using every inch of it to inspire their own learning.”

The school has already won approval from parents such as Sam Coultart, of Harpenden, who said: “There is a sense of height, and light. It’s breathtaking, and it’s nice to have a ‘home’ after three years. It’s just lovely, and it’s been sympathetically done.

“The children even have a kitchen area, which is fabulous. My son, who is in Year 5, thinks this is amazing.”