Pupils and staff at Orchard Vale Community School in Barnstaple have joined in a huge Mad Hatter’s Tea Party to celebrate their 20th anniversary.

Barnstaple mayor Alan Rennles also presnted the youngest members of Orchard Vale School with a giant caterpillar, in keeping with the Alice in Wonderland theme to mark the school's 20th anniversary. Picture: Tony GussinBarnstaple mayor Alan Rennles also presnted the youngest members of Orchard Vale School with a giant caterpillar, in keeping with the Alice in Wonderland theme to mark the school's 20th anniversary. Picture: Tony Gussin

The school at Whiddon Valley opened in September 1999 with 150 pupils and since then has more than doubled in size, with 350 children currently attending.

To mark the anniversary, staff and pupils dressed as a variety of Alice in Wonderland characters, with plenty of Mad Hatters, Alices and white rabbits on every hand.

They enjoyed a tea party and visits from former pupils and members of the community including Barnstaple mayor Alan Rennles.

Community was always the idea behind the school, which was intended to grow a new community in the heart of Whiddon Valley and to bring people together in the area.

Current headteacher Fiona Pearce began her career with the school 19 years ago as a Key Stage One teacher.

She said the school had always been about offering children opportunities that they might not normally get in North Devon.

She said: "Orchard Vale offers an awful lot of enrichment for children, alongside quality education in terms of academic success.

"We are a very caring and nurturing school and do support children's wellbeing and social aspirations as well.

"Some of the staff have been here since the school first opened, so it's a community in itself and is a very happy place to be."

Orchard Vale is currently rated as 'good' by Ofsted and it caters for ages from birth to 11 and in addition to a nursery for three and four-year-olds it has full day care provision with a small private nursery.

It was a talking point when it opened and was built using the latest environmentally-friendly and sustainable materials of the time.

Mrs Pearce praised the 'amazing parent body' that supported the school in its endeavours and added: "We continue to strive to do better in terms of education and to offer children good experiences and to help them do well in later life.

"It is a great team of staff who work together really well and I would like to say a big thank you to all who have contributed over the last 20 years."