Sir Eric Pickles celebrated the start of building works at Ongar’s first secondary school for 25 years with a “ground breaking” ceremony.

At the Ongar Academy this morning (July 15), the Brentwood and Ongar MP dug into the ground with a silver shovel and spoke to pupils from the school’s first year.

Sir Eric said: “I’m really envious, not just because of your natty uniforms, but because you are here at the beginning and you are going to set the standards for this school and you are going to be the measure of pupils to come.

“Schools are not just about buildings, schools are not just about all this fancy stuff here, but are about the heart and about determination to deliver an excellent education in a very safe environment.

“This will be a place in which you can learn and you can be challenged and when you come out of this school, whether you go onto further education or higher education or to top universities, a little bit of this school is always going to be with you.

“And that’s something precious, that’s something to hold on to.”

When finished, the academy will include three-storey buildings, a sports hall and a car park on land adjacent to Ongar Leisure Centre on Fyfield Road.

Opening the event, Sir Eric said: “Being able to build a school not only requires good fortune, but also great skill and determination and this is all about delivering a superb service to a community.

“Folks here in Ongar must be pleased as punch, as this is going to be a great community facility.

“It’s going to be something to be proud of.

“When people think about Ongar, they are going to think about this great school.”

Head teacher David Grant said: “Sir Eric has been a long term supporter of the school, and our students have taken great pleasure in meeting our local MP and sharing what they have achieved this year.”

It is hoped the new facilities will be open in September 2017.

Pete Marchant, chairman of the Ongar Academy Trust, said: “It’s a tremendous achievement that having completed our first successful year, we are now well underway with building works for the new school premises.

“These superb state-of-the-art facilities will stand as tribute to the hard work our dedicated volunteers and highly talented staff team, not forgetting our wonderful community of parents and students, without whom none of this would have been possible.”