After months of high anticipation, the first secondary school in Ongar for a quarter of a century has officially opened the doors to its first set of pupils.

As children returned to other schools around Epping Forest yesterday (September 7), 120 year seven pupils started for the first time at the Ongar Academy, one of 52 new free schools to open around the country.

The school in The Gables is the first in Ongar since the Ongar Comprehensive School closed in 1989, forcing local children to endure long bus journeys to schools outside of the town.

The academy opened yesterday after a dedicated project from experienced teachers, local parents and grandparents to meet education need in the area.

When at full capacity 800 pupils will be taught at the school, which specialises in the ‘STEM’ subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths.

Head teacher David Grant, who was hired by the academy project in October last year, welcomed pupils to the school.

He said: “It is fantastic to see the dream become a reality.

“We are here to inspire excellence in all we do and I am so pleased to see the finished buildings being used for the first time.”

Classes are initially being taught in purpose-built temporary accommodation, with the sports centre, swimming pool and youth centre at the adjacent Ongar Leisure Centre also being used by pupils.

The temporary “modular” rooms will house pupils for two years, by which time it is planned that brand new buildings will be ready.

The opening followed a recent visit to Downing Street for Mr Grant, governor chair Pete Marchant and project officer Jeff Banks, who were hosted by David Cameron as he celebrated the opening of new free schools.

Mr Marchant said: “It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet the Prime Minister and Education Minister on Wednesday which was an exciting preclude to our opening week.

“We are extremely grateful to the Department for Education and the Education Funding Agency for backing our school and supporting the Ongar community in their longstanding objective of returning secondary education to Ongar.”