Brixton–born Pearl Mackie, who plays Doctor Who’s latest and first openly gay main companion, Bill Potts, has officially reopened the rebuilt Lansdowne School, a Lambeth secondary school for pupils with special educational needs.
Mackie, who has also worked as a tutor for Troupers, which teaches theatre skills to young people, was taken on a tour of the school in Brixton.
It has been redeveloped on its original site with 14 purpose-built classrooms and new facilities including a science laboratory, two art rooms, a fully equipped sensory room and a room for information technology and music.
Mackie took part in a question-and-answer session with year 12 pupils and presented certificates to some of the students.
Addressing pupils from all years in the new hall, she said the experience felt like her first day on Dr Who – when she came face to face with 150 new colleagues.
“It’s been absolutely incredible to see what you guys do here and the amazing things you do in all your classrooms,” she said. “Standing up here in front of you reminds me of my first day at school, and also my first day on Dr Who.”
Lansdowne was rebuilt because its original building, designed as a primary school, was no longer fit for purpose as a secondary school.
The development, which was financially supported by the Education Funding Agency (EFA) and Lambeth council, also allowed for an increase in pupil places at the school.
Executive head teacher Linda Adams said the project had been temporarily delayed at one point when it was suspected that the original building had been constructed on a cemetery.
She paid tribute to the work of the EFA, the council, staff, pupils and neighbours in getting the project off the ground.
“It’s been quite a journey,” she said. “It seems appropriate that Pearl is our guest of honour to officially open our new school today, as it’s felt like we’d got into the Tardis and moved from one time zone to another when we moved from the old Lansdowne building into this fabulous new school.
“We had no specialist buildings; we had nothing that was fit for purpose for children at a secondary school in this day and age.”
The new school has 14 classrooms on two floors, each with a sensory area and smart board. Between classrooms there is a break-out area with computers, where students can work independently or regain focus with 1:1 help if needed.
Jane Edbrooke, Lambeth council cabinet member for children and schools, said: “Rebuilding this school, with its wonderful new facilities, has been a long and often frustrating process, but everyone connected with the project has been totally committed to it throughout.
“This event was a celebration of the achievement of the school, the council and the local community in transforming these plans into reality.
“But it was also a tremendous opportunity for the pupils and the staff to showcase all the great work that goes on at Lansdowne on a daily basis. They are a great advertisement for education in Lambeth.”
The report of latest inspection of the school by the government Ofsted organisation said that the head “has established a culture of high ambition in the school. She is determined that pupils will be well prepared for meaningful employment and to live as independently as possible in adulthood”.