THE keys for one of the teaching blocks at Cwmcarn High School have been handed back to staff, more than a year after the site closed amid asbestos concerns.

The school was closed in October 2012 after a council-commissioned survey by Santia asbestos management found staff and pupils could be at risk from airborne particles of amosite asbestos.

Staff and pupils are preparing to return to the buildings after Christmas, a move which was delayed following the death of 26-year-old contractor James Paul, who had been working to remove asbestos at the school.

An inquest opening heard that Mr Paul, from Abertillery, was electrocuted, with an investigation delaying asbestos-removal work.

Last November the school’s 937 pupils moved to a temporary home at Ebbw Vale's former Coleg Gwent campus, at a cost to Caerphilly council of £1.4 million, and thousands of people signed a petition to save the school.

This week the keys to the Performing Arts Centre was handed back to head teacher Jacqui Peplinski.

"We are thrilled to have a large section of our school handed back following the extensive works that have been taking place on the school site," she said.

"We have every intention of utilising the Performing Arts block for community surgeries and other community meetings over the coming weeks, and the countdown really is now on until we’re able to return home to Cwmcarn."

Parents, teachers and pupils were able to return to the site for the first time in over 12 months to attend a Year 6 opening evening at the end of October.

The hand over of the A-block is "imminent" according to Caerphilly council and PE lessons have already taken place at the site as well as a Year 7 social evening.

Councillor Rhianon Passmore, cabinet member for education, said it was wonderful to see further progress continues being made on the school site.

"This significant milestone, I hope, will send a clear message to pupils, parents, staff and the wider community that Cwmcarn High School will soon be moving home," she said.

Asbestos removal and remediation works have been completed in the school buildings and contractors are now undertaking other essential works, said the council.