Watch: Aerial drone video of new Route 39 academy site near Bucks Cross

Work will start on the new Route 39 Academy this autumn.

It was confirmed today (Thursday) construction would begin in October or November on the school’s permanent site at Steart Farm near Bucks Cross.

The new building and campus or the former caravan site will be constructed by Wilmott Dixon and has been designed by architects Aedas.

The new building is expected to open in May 2018 and will cater for 700 students from age 11 up to a sixth form.

Class sizes are kept small at Route 39 Academy. Picture: Tony GussinClass sizes are kept small at Route 39 Academy. Picture: Tony Gussin

The academy has been in temporary housing at the old Clovelly school since 2013 and has around 150 students.

The journey began when a group of local parents began the campaign for a new school in the area and successfully attracted millions from the Government to set up a new free school.

The new academy building will be divided into four ‘learning villages’ that will cater for up to 125 students, but each class will be no larger than 25.

Principal Jordan Kelly said the learning village idea gave the option of a more open plan linked learning environment, or partitions could be moved to create smaller units as needed.

Route 39 Academy students at work. Picture: Tony GussinRoute 39 Academy students at work. Picture: Tony Gussin

He said the new school will have a huge range of facilities including a recording studio, ‘Superlab’ for science, learning café, a dance suite and performance area, technology rooms, learning resource centre (library and digital area), hard court sports hall, sixth form hub and much more.

Each learning village will have its own ‘Da Vinci suite’ for crafts as well as ‘soft sciences’ where no specialised equipment is needed.

Outside there will be a football pitch, netball court, landscaped areas and areas for studying horticulture. The listed farmhouse and some other existing buildings will be kept and used.

Route 39 Academy does things differently and the school day runs from 8.30am to 5pm, but there is no homework – this is completed in study periods at school.

Students are taught in mixed age groups and the policy is to link subjects together and provide more teacher time per student.

“Staff time with students is key to making students feel happy and secure and so they learn well,” said Mr Kelly.

“We want to engender a sense of respect in our students and we do that by spending a lot of time with them.

“We have academy targets for our students based on what the Government sets but we have added 10 per cent to that.

“Comments I get constantly from people are ‘I wish your new school was open’ or ‘I can’t wait for my kids to go to your school’.”

There was loud opposition to the Route 39 Academy and a planning appeal had to be set aside before it could go ahead, but Mr Kelly said they were working with Bideford and Torrington schools, adding: “I know there are pressures on schools in terms of finances and percentages but we are here to support education in this area and by working together we can achieve that.”

Year 9 student Jensen Christian, aged 13, said he hadn’t been to any other school like it: “I like the way the day is longer and you don’t take your work home with you,” he said,

“I would recommend it to people who may be struggling with their work at home. On a Friday we have two hours of extended curriculum, which is any activity of our choice from five or six options, including surfing, film club and Japanese.”

* Route 39 Academy is holding two Year 6 Open Evenings for interested children and their parents on Wednesday, September 28 and Wednesday, October 12, from 6-8pm. Please book in advance by emailing here or call 01237 431969. Or call the school to arrange a tour.