A NEW state-of-the-art Academy, which lies at the heart of its community, has been officially blessed by the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle.

The Right Reverend Seamus Cunningham performed the Liturgy and Blessing at St Michael’s Catholic Academy, Billingham, which formally opened the new building.

St Michaels’ students were joined in a community celebration including all present students, staff members past and present, Education Funding Agency officials, representatives from The Carmel Education Trust, Governors, Directors, friends of St Michael’s, architects and builders, priests Father John Butters, Father Jim Angus, Father Seamus Doyle and Father Barrie McKenzie and pupils and teachers from partner primary schools.

Guests were treated to performances by the St Michael’s Academy Choir and Orchestra with readings from Headteacher Andrew Ramsey, Chair of The Carmel Education Trust Cyndi Hughes, Chair of Governors Mary Toth and Chief Executive of The Carmel Education Trust Maura Regan OBE, before the Bishop performed the official blessing.

“This is a very special and historical occasion being the very first time that our whole student community has gathered together in hope and prayer within our new Academy,” said Mr Ramsey.

“I am very proud of what we have achieved here. Not only do we have a fantastic new building but we have created a strong, noble, compassionate and compelling identity for St Michael’s.”

The new building, constructed by contractors Kier, replaces the out-dated school, which stood on Beamish Road for over 50 years.

Miss Regan added: “Our new Academy has risen from the ashes of our old school and is testament to the strength of the community it serves. This may just be a building, but what makes it so uniquely special are the people within it.

“The ingredients that make St Michael’s so successful are its dedication and commitment. I’m sure these and its characteristics of loyalty and trust will continue to flourish in our new Academy.”