Settling in to their new home

"BE True To Your School," sang the Beach Boys back in 1963 - and, with a mere week in their new premises at Townhead behind them, staff and pupils at the new Rothesay Academy have no problems with that sentiment.

Head teacher Ken Moncrieff and his school and house captains gave us a short tour of their new home last Thursday, and their pride in their new seat of learning, combining practicality and flexibility, shone through throughout our visit.

The reception and admin area have all the atmosphere of a corporate HQ, perhaps on a business park thronged with IT or marketing companies, and, as one would expect, typical of a modern, efficient 'newbuild' complex.

Beyond the reception area, there's a multi-purpose hall shared by the Academy and Rothesay Primary, including a smart-looking servery and dining area, used by primary pupils between noon and 1pm and by Academy pupils from 1pm to 2pm.

This area is also the two schools' assembly hall, and so good are the acoustics that at the Academy's first assembly of the new term Mr Moncrieff had been able to address the entire school without the state-of-the-art speaker system and radio microphones which comprise the hall's new sound system.

A projection booth here gives the versatility to mount all sorts of productions - however we were pleased to see the old piano from the former assembly hall in position, and obviously still being well used.

There is a even special wheelchair access to the stage. In fact the entire building has been designed for those with impaired mobility very much in mind - with only two floors, connected by a lift, and with extremely wide staircases, there are no longer the endless flights of stairs and treks up and down hills between buildings in all weathers endured by staff and pupils at the old Academy.

Conveniently situated behind the stage, the music laboratory looks more like a sophisticated recording studio than a traditional music room - and despite the lack of windows here, the lighting system provides perfectly natural daylight.

We were also impressed by the banks of computers in an air-conditioned business studies classroom - but delighted, too, to see Miss York using traditional teaching methods!

Mr Moncrieff added: "Every class has an interactive white board, which allows anything you do with a mouse to be done on the board with a pen and then stored.

"Some of these have been provided by Argyll and Bute Council and are in addition to the building's specifications."

From outside, particularly from up the hill at Crossbeg, the school looks quite small, but inside it's a bit like Doctor Who's Tardis - the corridors seem endless, and without our guides we would quickly have become completely disorientated.

On to more of the 'practical' classrooms, in the science, home economics and technical units - each lab, as well as the traditional experimenting or cooking area, has a classroom area, so pupils no longer have to learn scientific theory perched on a bench in front of a bunsen burner.

The technical section is so complex that old fashioned implements such as T squares are no longer required - but here, like elsewhere, every subject has its own 'office' space.

Everywhere we looked there was an abundance of PCs. The whole school has wireless Internet capability, but this won't mean that any old person can turn up, park outside the campus and switch on their laptop to gain free access to the web.

"The wireless network uses very high levels of security encryption," Mr Moncrieff told us, "but nevertheless the material used in the walls means that the wireless signal will not penetrate to the outside.

"We have actually had to provide senior managers with walkie talkies because mobile phone signals don't penetrate the walls."

Then it was back to the ground floor and to the PE department, which is the 'piece de resistance' of the complex.

First we were shown into a games hall, whose size and scale just about took our breath away. "Wait till you see the rest," advised girls' captain, Megan Alexander, and she wasn't wrong - we walked from this amazing games hall into an even larger one, which would not look out of place in Rydell High, of Grease fame, with its electronic scoreboard and profusion of basketball baskets.

Adjacent to the two halls are the dance studio and fitness suite. Yes, a dance studio - complete with a fully sprung Junckers dance floor, full length mirror and barre.

Next door, the fitness suite includes a full range of state of the art Precor cardiovascular workout machines and a full set of weights - though we had difficulty in working out what some of the weights are for.

Mr Moncrieff explained: "It covers impaired mobility so you can move the bottom of these upper body sets to allow a wheelchair access and its occupant can work on his or her upper body strength."

There's actually more gym equipment in here than was originally specified in the plans for the school, with the extra equipment provided by Argyll and Bute Council and the Schools of Ambition programme - an early example of the way in which the Academy's pupils are benefiting from the school's inclusion in the scheme.

By now we were running out of time and didn't have time to examine the outside sports area and its grass and full size floodlit astroturf pitches, but this area is to be made available to the community at large outwith school hours, and a big demand is expected.

Back out into the outside world and we asked the head pupils for their thoughts on their new home. "It's great," they all replied, and Mr Moncrieff added: "It's a community, and we are proud of it."

Shortly after we left the new campus we met Cllr Isobel Strong, Argyll and Bute's education spokesperson and a former

teacher at the old Academy, who told us: "The new campus is a wonderful opportunity for staff and pupils with a brand new building.

"Music, dance, sports facilities - all aspects of the curriculum are catered for.

"I wish the staff and pupils in the Academy and also in the primary school, pre-school and Argyll College, every success in their new premises."