OLYMPIC pole vaulter Steve Lewis told staff and students to raise their ambitions as he cut the ribbon on their £8.2 million school refurbishment.
The 26-year-old athlete, from Light Oaks, unveiled the landmark refurbishment at Haywood Engineering College in Burslem.
Steve, who once worked at the school as a caretaker, was taken on a tour of the new facilities, which include high-tech science labs, open-space classrooms and a state-of-the-art sports hall.
And Steve, who jumped 5.75 metres to finish fifth in the London 2012 Olympic final, said: “A lot of hard work has gone into this and it is an amazing project. I can see there is a lot of pride in the school and I hope having these great facilities will help to inspire the kids to aim as high as possible.”
Haywood was one of the first schools in Stoke-on-Trent to benefit from the city’s £250 million Building Schools for the Future (BSF) project.
Steve still has good links with the school as his father Martin has worked as site manager there for 12 years.
He said: “It is a huge privilege for me to come back to Haywood. It is crazy to think that my life has gone down one track and then to come back and see what has been achieved.”
Assistant headteacher Chris Chapman said: “We now have a school fit for the 21st century.
“Students can be more independent and it will help them to succeed. There were some false starts to the project but I think Stoke-on-Trent has been fortunate as it was one of the last areas to receive the funding.”
The overhaul started in April with pupils and staff having to fit lessons in around the workmen.
Students began lessons in their new-look classrooms after returning for the start of the academic year.
Headteacher Dilesh Parmar said: “Because it was a refurbishment and a part-build we had to carry on even with the main spine of our school was out of action.
“We put 20 mobile classrooms up outside and just had to carry on.
“Many dedicated people have had to come together to make this happen.”
Among the most impressive new features at the school is a 30ft ‘classroom in the sky’, which was designed by pupils.
Mr Parmar said: “The project has made students feel valued and appreciated. You can see them beaming as they walk around the new areas and they want to learn.”
The school was originally earmarked for closure under the BSF plans, but remained open after a campaign by parents.
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