THE new Mountjoy School has thrown open its doors in West Dorset.

The complex – built for 48 pupils with physical and learning disabilities – is nearly four times bigger than its predecessor on Flood Lane in Bridport. Its outdoor play area is almost 10 times the size of the former playground.

Headteacher James Franzen said: “It was wonderful to be able welcome pupils into our brilliant building for their first day in Beaminster.

“Our new school will allow our children, pupils and students to access a fantastic learning environment, which reflects the high aspirations we have for all at Mountjoy.”

It was 13 years ago when Dorset County Council shocked the community by proposing to close the school. But after a heated campaign supporters got the council to agree to rebuild it.

It was finally agreed to relocate it to the Beaminster School site after 45 years in Bridport.

The budget for the Mountjoy project was just under £9 million, and included providing state-of-the-art learning facilities for all pupils such as a sensory studio, media studio, sensory hydrotherapy pool and soft play room.

Dorset County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services Toni Coombs said: “We have worked on this project for a number of years and I’m delighted that the new school has now opened.

“Mountjoy School, rated as outstanding by Ofsted, was always let down by the old building but pupils and staff finally have the space, technology and 21st century facilities that they deserve.”

Beaminster School has benefited from improved sporting facilities – including a new floodlit 3G synthetic turf pitch. Other improvements include a new staff car park, accessed from Tunnel Road, which will reduce the flow of traffic on Fleet Street and an improved footpath linking both schools with the town centre.”