A NEW school which has been built on a former historic colliery site has opened its doors for the first time.

Islwyn High School, in Waterloo, Oakdale, Caerphilly, was formed in 2016 following the amalgamation of Pontllanfraith School and Oakdale Comprehensive School.

The construction of the new English-medium secondary school cost an estimated £25 million and was completed in April this year. Now pupils have started term in their new school for the first time.

Head teacher Tim Williams, who also served as head teacher of the former Pontllanfraith School, believes one of the school’s biggest selling points is having “state of the art” facilities.

Mr Williams said: “We were involved in the planning stages to this school all the way along from beginning to end.

“When the school was built we made sure that it had state-of-the-art facilities and equipment.

“I think some of our best features would be our 3G pitch for our pupils. The pitch has artificial grass and different types of sport can be played on it.

“The classes are brand new for our pupils and so is the multi-use tennis courts. We also have an outdoor classroom and pond, where pupils can come and learn.”

He added: “All of these things are state-of-the-art equipment for our pupils.

“We’ve only just started our school term and I’m sure they’ll be used well and regularly.

“It was the GCSE period when the school became ready so we decided to remain at both of the old sites,” said Mr Williams. “There was enough stress going on with exams let alone moving location.

“When we did start moving it was rather traumatic and stressful. You can imagine two schools moving on to a single site involved a lot of work.

“We’re here now and it’s going well with people settling in. Lots of people have taken a keen interest into the history of this site.”

Islwyn High School now stands on the site of the former Oakdale Colliery, which was in operation from 1907.

The colliery had been a major employer, in Caerphilly but closed in 1989, after running into difficulties.

Following the closure, the site was neglected and became a waste ground.

“The land was later flattened by Caerphilly County Borough Council,” said the head teacher.

“The area was flattened to get it ready for use in the future. I’d imagine the land was waiting to be snapped up.”

The school, which now has more than one thousand pupils, offers many subjects – including home economics, French and drama – but puts a great emphasis on ICT.

Mr Williams said: “Every class has access to ICT and Wi-Fi. We have three ICT suites in the school.

“There are trollies of laptops and iPads which teachers can book to use.

“We all know that to thrive in an ever changing world you need a good command of technology and ICT.

“We revolve around ICT because it is the future.”

The head teacher believes following the school’s vision is important to securing “success for school pupils”.

He said: “Schools have dramatically changed from years ago. In the past, schools would be just providing children with information and then they’d go to an exam and regurgitate the information.

“Now it’s about preparing young people for their future and to become independent learners.

“Our vision says ‘Preparing young people to be independent learners to be able to thrive in an ever changing world’ and that’s why it’s important to follow it.

“Our vision is putting pupils at the heart of what we do and to help secure their success. To ensure their success we need to follow our vision.”

Despite the school only recently being used by pupils, Mr Williams said that it’s already made a mark in the community.

“This school is very unique,” said Mr Williams. “Everything is of professional standard and that is unique. We even have our assembly hall on the first floor of the building. We’re already over-subscribed as it is.

“We have a speakers system built into classrooms, here we take it in turns to broadcast the thought of the day to the school. When thought of the day is being delivered to a silent school, pupils are then asked to discuss it.

“I might add that this happens during registration – but this doesn’t happen first thing in the morning. When pupils arrive they head straight for lesson one.”

The head teacher said that he was “proud” of Islwyn High School being fully inclusive for all children.

Mr Williams said: “The school’s motto is ‘Belong, Believe, Achieve’ and that encompasses everything that we stand for, really. It also shows that we’re a fully inclusive school.

“We have ‘Belong’ in the motto because all of our pupils have a belonging.

“The next part is ‘Believe’ and we do this by encouraging our pupils to believe in themselves. If they do that then anything is possible.

“And ‘Achieve’ stands for us wanting our pupils to achieve.”

Mr Williams added that he hopes to see the school in one year’s time become a “place of choice”.

He said: “What I want in a year’s time is to have happy pupils.

“I want pupils to want to come to this school in particular. I want the school to be performing at the same level as its high profile.

“It needs to become the school of choice ultimately.”