Page last updated at 09:57 GMT, Friday, 16 January 2009

'Spaceship' school's pod classes

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Taking a tour around what the futuristic school will offer

Nicola Smith
By Nicola Smith
BBC Wales education correspondent

As I drove into the village of Abergwynfi, at the top of the Upper Afan Valley, it looked like a spaceship had just landed.

Nestled in front of the mountain, perched high over the terraced houses, is a building like no other in the area.

In the place where the old junior school used to be, construction work is well underway on a school for the 21st Century.

Forget square classrooms. These ones are round. They're called 'pods', and this school boasts 10 of them.

Artist's impression of the school
The round classrooms are designed to be inclusive

The man in charge of regeneration at Neath Port Talbot Council, Gareth Nutt, says 360 degree classrooms offer pupils a new learning experience.

"They provide a flexible teaching space. If you can imagine, the teacher can be at the centre of the classroom... in amongst the pupils, no one is at the back of the class, no one is at the front. It's all inclusive".

It's taken three years to get from the design stage to construction, but the council hopes to have the 4m project finished by July.

The building will have the capacity for up to 200 pupils and should open at the start of the autumn term.

But it's not just how the school looks that is attracting attention. It's designed to be environmentally friendly too.

Look up and you see that the roof of each pod has a series of small windows.

'Iconic buildings'

These are automatically controlled by the temperature in the room. If it gets too hot, they open. When it starts cooling down, they shut.

The council is keen to stress this school will also be a place the whole community can use.

Head of schools, Aled Evans, said: "We are developing iconic buildings that place value on education in communities.

"The community has ownership of the establishments, and they can see them as opportunities, so they can also participate in learning beyond school hours."

The scaffolding is still up, but it's already clear that this is a building with a difference.

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