The pupils of Brislington Enterprise College give their verdict on Bristol’s £34m Building Schools for the Future project. Photography by Neill Menneer

Brislington Enterprise College has opened its doors to its first customers.  

What they think of their new school could hardly be more important: this is one of the first fruits of the Building Schools for the Future initiative, so they are also passing judgment on a centrepiece of government policy.

The good news for Labour is that the general reaction seems to be positive. Alice Lamb, 15, says: “When you walk in, you feel as if you really matter. It’s colourful, light and airy.”

Jason Skinner, 12, puts it more succinctly: “The old building was rubbish, but this is cool.”

Liz Drew, 15, went into more detail: “It’s really clean and cheery, plus there’s tiered seating in the assembly room which is a really good idea. It’s all very high tech, too, and the computer rooms are supposed to be amazing though we’ve not had a chance to use them yet.”

I love the new dance area because it’s all so clean and organised; the old building was a mess and really dark and dingy

Lily Bland, 15

Not all of the critics were entirely bowled over by the temple of learning, however. Thirteen-year-old Olly Lewis thought it looked “a bit prison-like when I first came in – it felt a bit kind of empty”.

The £34m facility is the third to be completed by the Bristol Education Partnership and Skanska. Based on a “schools within a school design”, the facility is made up of seven “learning communities” or mini schools. As the school has a capacity of 1,755 students and about 160 staff, the aim of the mini-schools is to provide more intimate learning environments. Students will spend about 60% of their time in them and the remainder in shared areas for subjects such as dance, PE and art.

The college has biomass heating and a rainwater system to flush its toilets; and it makes full use of natural ventilation and light. These all contribute to a BREEAM rating of “very good”.