North Devon’s first free school is opening its doors for the first time today (Wednesday) and we’ve taken an exclusive first look inside.

It’s been years in the making but Atlantic Academy’s brand new building at Steart Farm, Bucks Cross, is welcoming 165 pupils through its doors.

The school’s journey as Route 39 Academy has been a turbulent one – but now new principal Lynsey Slater is hoping the new name will mean a fresh start for the school.

In it’s journey to fruition the school has battled campaigners who didn’t want to see it built in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; a failed first Ofsted report; holding its first year 11 pupils back from taking their GCSEs; and all of its original governors resigning.

Inside the new Atlantic Academy free school in North Devon. Picture: Sarah HowellsInside the new Atlantic Academy free school in North Devon. Picture: Sarah Howells

But under the umbrella of Launceston Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) the school is welcoming 45 new year seven pupils today, and hopes this number will increase to 100 per year group for the 700-capacity building.

Speaking on Tuesday as staff made their final preparations for the new term Ms Slater, who has been teaching for 15 years, said: “It’s a fresh start for staff and students; moving into the new site is an incredible opportunity.

“We’re ready for it and we want the best for all of our students, this is an exciting time for them.”

Inside the new Atlantic Academy free school in North Devon. Picture: Sarah HowellsInside the new Atlantic Academy free school in North Devon. Picture: Sarah Howells

In an exclusive first look at the site, the Gazette was shown the large open spaces for children to enjoy their breaks, overlooking the countryside and ocean.

“It’s an inspiring place and we hope to be able to draw on that,” said Ms Slater.

“We are always going to be the smaller school in the area and I think that’s our unique allure.”

Inside the new Atlantic Academy free school in North Devon. Picture: Sarah HowellsInside the new Atlantic Academy free school in North Devon. Picture: Sarah Howells

Features of the new school include a professional kitchen for students to learn food technology; open-plan ‘learning villages’; and new technologies including a new 3D printer for design classes.

Subjects will work together on common topics, and there are plans for classes such as business and food technology to host practical events too.

There is also a fully-equipped performance space and sports hall, and Ms Slater said she hopes once the school has settled in they can offer this to the community.

Inside the new Atlantic Academy free school in North Devon. Picture: Sarah HowellsInside the new Atlantic Academy free school in North Devon. Picture: Sarah Howells

“We want the best for our students and we’re very excited to open,” she added.

Inside the new Atlantic Academy free school in North Devon. Picture: Sarah HowellsInside the new Atlantic Academy free school in North Devon. Picture: Sarah Howells

Inside the new Atlantic Academy free school in North Devon. Picture: Sarah HowellsInside the new Atlantic Academy free school in North Devon. Picture: Sarah Howells

Inside the new Atlantic Academy free school in North Devon. Picture: Sarah HowellsInside the new Atlantic Academy free school in North Devon. Picture: Sarah Howells

Inside the new Atlantic Academy free school in North Devon. Picture: Sarah HowellsInside the new Atlantic Academy free school in North Devon. Picture: Sarah Howells