THIS week the first of five new schools opened in East Lancashire, where the face of secondary education is changing.

Accrington Academy opened to pupils today and on Monday, students of the new Darwen Aldridge Community Academy will have their first day.

Also on Monday, the first three of eight brand new school buildings will open in Burnley and Pendle under the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme.

Education Reporter Deborah Lewis speaks to staff and students at Accrington Academy about what the changes mean for them, and finds out at what a “21st century school” looks like.

BURNLEY and Pendle BSF schools were created in September 2006 and have since operated out of the old school sites.

Headteachers and their staff have since worked hard to establish the new school identities.

But the heads of Shuttleworth College in Padiham, Thomas Whitham Sixth Form in Burnley and Pendle Vale College in Nelson should find the task significantly easier from Monday, when over 2,000 pupils will see their brand new state-of-the-art buildings.

These pictures of Shuttleworth College in Burnley Road back up education bosses’ claims of providing the “very best” for East Lancashire youngster.

And pupils across the area could see similiar improvemnets in the years to come. Blackburn with Darwen Council’s own BSF programme is due to start in 2010, and plans are also underway for a BSF project in Hyndburn and Rossendale.

At Shuttleworth, the cutting edge ICT and gym equipment, extensive auditorium and the sweeping floor-to-ceiling atrium that greets pupils and staff are a far cry from the former Habergham Sixth Form building the school has been working from.

Shuttleworth cost £20 million to build and facilities include a dance studio, sports hall, fitness room, tennis courts, and all weather sports pitches.

All the BSF schools are designed to be energy efficient, and are powered by bio-mass boilers fuelled by wood chips from renewable sources.

They boast features including wind turbines, solar panels and photovoltaic panels to generate renewable energy, and rainwater is gathered from roofs to be recycled.

They are all also equipped with the latest ICT and teaching resources.

Costing £31million, Burnley Campus in Barden Lane is the biggest BSF project and comprises Thomas Whitham Sixth Form – previously Burnley Schools’ Sixth Form – Barden Primary School, Holly Grove special school, Reedley Hallows Nursery School and Children's Centre, a public library and the Burnley and Pendle Faith Centre, together with all-weather sports pitches, fitness centre, a climbing wall, sports hall and hydrotherapy pool.

The £29million Pendle Vale College and Pendle Community High School and College site brings together two schools under one roof with the aim of achieving greater inclusion.

Sports pitches and indoor sports resources are all built to Sport England standards to support the school's aims to achieve specialist sports college status.

The three schools are the first phase of Lancashire County Council’s £250 million BSF programme, which has courted its fair share of controversy.

Work has already begun on the next three, and plans are approved for the final two to be completed by 2010.

County Council leader Hazel Harding said: "Our children deserve the best and in these wonderful new schools we are offering world-class facilities.

"I hope that everyone who sees them recognises that and supports us in the next phase of this amazing programme."

Helen Denton, who took over as executive director for children and young people at the council this summer, said that once the buildings were up, all the disagreements would “fade into the background”.

THE pupils at Accrington Academy are much more knowledgeable about Greek gods that they were this time last year.

One of the changes brought in to establish the identity of the academy, which has replaced Moorhead Sports College and is operating out of the same Queens Road West site, are four new “colleges” that pupils belong to.

Following the traditional school house system, every student at the academy is now a part of Metis, Athena, Caerus or Zeus.

Principal Andrew Bateman, who was head of Moorhead for seven years, said: “We asked pupils for college name suggestions last year, and Greek gods was the most popular one.

“Starting from today, the colleges will take part in different sporting and academic challenges to collect points. The college with the most points will get rewards at the end of term.”

It is just one of numerous changes to the school’s infrastructure brought in by Mr Bateman and his senior team.

Another is what is known as “vertical grouping”, where form groups comprise students of all ages rather than just one year group.It is a system that already has seen success in Burnley BSF schools including Unity College, and also at other academies in the country run by United Learning Trust (ULT), the sponsor of Accrington.

Twelve-year-old Hayley Lawson, who spent her first secondary year at Moorhead, said: “I think the vertical groups will be better, because if the older pupils behave better then the younger ones will.”

Year 11 student Alex Meadows said: “I think we will feel responsible to look after the younger ones.”

Jemma Dearden, 12, who along with fellow year eight pupils Hayley and Ajmal Ali, is Mr Bateman’s “apprentices” for the year, said: “When we first heard about it last year, I thought it sounded a bit cheesy to be honest with all the talk of being a big family, but now I’ve got used to it, and I think it’s good because we’re different to other schools. We stand out.”

They are happy with the freshly decorated classrooms, new uniform and new computer equipment, which they say helps make the school feel different.

Alex, who turns 16 next week, will also be in the first cohort to be offered a sixth form provision in Hyndburn.

The academy will open the borough’s first sixth form centre from next September, with a 250-place capacity.

The academy is also offering after school classes as part of the extended curriculum, which will also be the wider community – opening up opportunities for the community is a cornerstone for the academy programme.