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Millennium is just beginning

Forget the Dome, Greenwich has a new school going up which aims to regenerate the area, reports Leala Padmanabhan

THE light may be fading on the Dome, but for some children in Greenwich the millennium experience is just beginning.

The Thames peninsula has a new Learning Zone - the Millennium primary school, a pound;6 million state-of-the art building just yards from the great white hedgehog. The opening cannot come too soon for pupils of Annandale school, which is just a mile down the road.

Annandale could not be more different from its futuristic neighbour. The dilapidated Seventies school, with its leaky roofs and faulty doors, is closing and is earmarked for demolition.

It is already successful with a wide racial mix and inclusive ethos. A quarter of its pupils have special needs and a third are on free school meals.

Under the leadership of its energetic head, David Edwards, key stage 2 literacy and numeracy scores have nearly trebled over the past five years.

But because staff were finding it increasingly difficult to teach in the run-down building, it was an obvious candidate for relocation.

The Millennium primary school is part of Environment Secretary John Prescott's plan to transform the contaminated site of a former inner-city gasworks into a high-tech, environmentally-friendly community.

Some 200,000 cubic metres of soil was taken away from the site which was then lined with protective membranes to ensure no seepage.

And even though the Dome's fortunes have flaged and the planned new housing development is still a building site, Mr Edwards believes the Millennium primary will kickstart the hoped-for revival.

Architect Edward Cullinan designed the school to be eco- friendly. It is built of renewable larchwood from the Forest of Dean, with large south-facing windows to bring in heat and light and sophisticated insulation.

It will have the latest high-tech equipment, with interactive whiteboards, at least three computers in every classroom, and borough-wide video links to other schools.

The site will also contain a GP's surgery, an adult learning and community centre, an Internet cafe, sports facilities and a creche - fulfilling the modern vision of integrated education, leisure and social services.

The school was gifted to Greenwich by the Government. Building problems have delayed its opening - scheduled for this September - but Mr Edwards is convinced that the school built to celebrate 2000 will finally open in January 2001. "I'm delighted that we'll be able

to give

full-time provision for three-year-olds and a creche for babies and toddlers."

Barbara Allonby,

nursery teacher "I stood

up at church to tell them all about it. It will be like a normal school except there'll be laptops all over the place."

Uche Obasi, pupil,

aged eight "We

hope to become a model for other schools throughout

the

country."

Andrea Edmondson,

co-ordinator, information and

communications technology

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