Civic and educational leaders joined construction experts to celebrate breaking ground at the site of Corby's long-awaited new secondary school.
The school is being built at a site in Oundle Road, just outside Weldon Park, by builders BAM.
It will be run by the Meridian Trust, which already operates schools across Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire.
The school's name has been officially unveiled as Weldon Village Academy, and it will open to the first intake in September 2023.
At a special ceremony on Friday (March 25), dignitaries signed their names on a steel beam that was craned into place on the first floor to mark the start of the build on the elevated greenfield site that has far-reaching panoramic views.
School places in Corby are already squeezed after a period of rapid housing development in the town, with many pupils bussed outside the town for secondary education.
This new school had originally been due to open several years ago and, at Friday's ceremony, Meridian Trust CEO Mark Woods spoke of the difficult journey from conception to construction.
He said: "Seven years ago, the director of education in Northamptonshire said we have got a project for a free school that is 'oven ready' for 2019 at the latest.
"It's been an interesting period looking at different sites including one directly opposite an existing school.
"But this is an amazing place."
He thanked other school leaders in Corby who had helped him during the planning stages and revealed he was going to Brooke Weston following the ceremony to raise a glass with the leaders there who had offered their advice as well as meeting rooms for the team in the past few years.
The build is in partnership with the Department for Education (DfE), constructor BAM Construct UK, and technical advisors Mott MacDonald.
It's planned that the school will serve 1,500 students from across the whole of Corby and surrounding villages.
Andy Gates, Regional Head for the Department for Education Free Schools Capital, said: “With construction already under way, the new school will provide 1,500 places to support growing numbers of pupils in the area, in a building that embraces new sustainable technologies to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption. We are all very excited to have this new school opening in September 2023.”
BAM project manager Brian Scott said: "It's a real privilege to be completing the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle. This is going to be a cutting-edge facility. It's going to be the most modern school constructed in the UK.
"It will be of great benefit to the community."
When will Weldon Village Academy open, and how do I apply?
Builders will work to tight deadlines to ensure the school is ready for a year seven intake in 2023. There will only be a small intake of between 60 and 90 pupils in the first year. Numbers will gradually increase as that cohort moves up the school. It's aimed to be full to capacity by 2029.
Who's running it?
The academy will be run by the Meridian Trust, which has just this month changed its name from Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust. It's an eleven-year-old trust which runs 25 schools across the East and East Midlands including The Ferrers School in East Northamptonshire. The executive principal will be Sarah Wilson, who is already in post. A head of school is also set to be appointed before opening day.
Will my child be able to get in?
The admissions criteria are currently being assessed by the DfE and will shortly be available on the school's new website. The school is aimed at children 'from across Corby and surrounding villages.' The local community was consulted on admissions criteria. Applications will open in the autumn.
What will the school be like?
It's being described as the 'most modern in the UK' and will have wide open spaces as well as extensive sports facilities. There will be a lighting system linked to daylight levels, ventilation, heat recovery and low-carbon technologies. Pupils will be split into five 'houses' in which they'll remain as they move up the school. There'll be 1,500 pupils at capacity, including 300 in the sixth form. It will eventually be an eight-form entry school.
I don't have kids, so what benefit will the school be to me?
Supporting the community is a major objective for the school, with the sports facility available for community hire including a multi-use games area, sports hall, two full-sized football pitches and three five-a-side pitches.