PUPILS at a Westcliff school have celebrated the opening of a new £5million teaching block.

Youngsters at Chase High School, in Prittlewell Chase, have been leading parents, governors and councillors around the school’s newest asset – a three-storey building in the heart of the school.

The new complex offers dance and drama studios, an independent learning centre and an ultra-modern cafeteria, which uses a fingerprint recognition system to allow pupils to make purchases.

Headteacher Denise Allen said the development had given a new lease of life to the school, which has 970 pupils and opened its own sixth form last September.

She said: “The building has provided the school with some excellent facilities and the students are embracing these changes with great enthusiasm.

“They love the new spaces and are very proud of them. They have been showing visitors around, including parents, local authority officers and governors.

“The students love the cafeteria, because it has a very grown-up feel. We now have a proper cafeteria, which we didn’t have before, and the adjoining teaching space is quite flexible.”

Work on the new building started in June 2007, when an old corridor and art block were demolished. The completion of the building boosts the floor area of the school to 9,500 square metres. The work was funded by a Government Fresh Start grant.

New football pitches and sports facilities have also been added. These will be shared with the adjoining Chase Sports and Fitness Centre.

The facility now has eight five-a-side pitches, a clubhouse and a full-sized football pitch.

Head girl Irsa Qureshi, 16, said: “It was great to see the building going up and taking shape.

“It’s good now because we have the space to work and extra room to do things in.

“The drama spaces are great. When you do a piece, you can see everyone else’s work, too because of the mirrors. It’s got a really professional feel.

“All the Year 7 children think the football facility is just brilliant and because other schools come here to play as well, everyone gets to see it.”